Archive for the ‘Mindless Eating’ Category

You are What You Eat

In Excercise, Family Doctor, Food and Health, Junk Food, Mindful Eating, Mindless Eating on November 2, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I come back into the exam room, keeping my best poker face, sit down and turn to face her.  She’s on the edge of her seat, nervous and barely able to contain herself, maybe not even sure which answer she wants.


“Congratulations,” I say. She lets out her breath and smiles, huge.


Once the adrenaline settles down and she can hear me again, we start talking through the changes she can expect and the ones she needs to make.  I give her a very short ‘safe’ list of over-the-counter medicine she can take if needed.  She gets a prescription for pre-natal vitamins.  I remind her to avoid all alcohol and really put the screws on for her to quit smoking.

“Yes.”  “Ok,doc.”  “Mmm-hmm.”

Then I hold my fingers up about half an inch apart.  “This is how big your baby is right now.  It’s brain, bones, muscles, everything have to grow and the only food your baby gets it what you eat. Do you want your baby to be made from McDonald’s and soda pop or from healthy food, organic vegetables and fruits?  Now is the time to decide.”


The light that goes on, the Aha! moment I get to see is pretty cool, let me tell you.  This is often one of the conversations that feels like I’ve made a difference in someone’s life.

What I’ve realized over the years is this is true for all of us, all the time.  Every part of our bodies and brains is being constantly re-made, day by day.  The trillions of cells that make me are not the same ones that made me even a few years ago.  Some of our cells are not the same ones they were even yesterday!

Our bodies are constantly repairing and replacing cells by the billions and the only raw materials we have to work with is what we eat.  So, you are what you eat.  I am what I eat.  Everybody is the peculiar mix of Big Macs, broccoli, Guinness, apples, Twix, Doritos, salmon, and whatever else they eat – and nothing else!

Just take that in for a moment.  Think back to what you ate today or yesterday.  Cocoa Puffs?  It’s in there.  Chardonnay?  It’s there too.  Fast food, snacks, sodas?  Yes, yes, and yes.

One of the best ways I know to change your life is simply to become aware.  Mindless eating, mindless couch-sitting, and mindless sleep-skipping are pretty popular ways to feel like absolute crap.  Just being attentive to what I eat, what I drink, how active I am, and whether I get to bed early enough can help me actively choose to feel better.  If I go around on auto-pilot, I’m likely to grab chips for a snack, conveniently forget to run, sit at the computer way too late and feel like I deserve.

Be aware of your choices – you are making the you of tomorrow.  Choose Health!


All We Need is Just a Little Patience…

In Diet and Weight, Family Doctor, Mindful Eating, Mindless Eating on February 2, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Izzy Stradlin from Guns N' Roses

Do I date myself with the Guns N’ Roses reference?

I’m having a recurring theme come up in my conversations this week.  Plenty of folks had lost weight last summer, maybe to quiet their nagging doctor?  I’m starting to see them back for routine or urgent problems and I often notice the scale creeping back up.

I try to help people find the line between shrugging it off and beating themselves up over it, but that can be hard.  What I want people to know are just a couple of simple things.  I think these 3 thoughts should be kept in mind by anyone trying to change their diet or lose weight.

1) Realize the time it takes.  We live in the fastest paced culture around.  Drive-thrus, microwaves and the MinuteClinic make patience and perspective hard to remember.  What I continually remind my patients is that the weight didn’t come on overnight so it can’t come off overnight either.  Whenever you read an ad for a quick solution to health or weight, RUN!  They’re either flat-out lying to you or peddling something harmful.  Nature doesn’t do anything rapidly and trying to force your body into rapid weight loss will backfire, I promise.

Instead, be patient with yourself and your body.  The little choices every day add up, so keep making good little choices and you’ll be amazed where you can end up!

2) Water first.  I go over this topic in detail in Food Truths, Food Lies, but in a nutshell: Your body can’t tell thirst from hunger.  So what does this mean?  Drink water before eating anything, ever.  A cold glass of water and 5 minutes may completely fix any craving you’re having.  Even if it doesn’t, the water will help decrease the amount of food it takes to be satisfied.  Drink up!

3) Think before you eat.  This ties right into #2.  Eating without thinking is probably America’s biggest “bigness” problem.   Snacks and convenience foods are way too convenient.  A recent study showed we eat an average of over 550 calories per day more than Americans did 40 years ago.  Do the math: this is plenty to explain our weight problem.  Think before it goes into your mouth and pare back those needless calories that won’t even be enjoyed.   After all, how can it taste good if I eat without even realizing it?

Most of all, be kind and patient with yourself while making health changes.  All you have to do is make healthy choices today.  Keep it up and it will become a habit.  Keep healthy habits and your body will thank you for it.  I promise!

Eat Healthfully, Live Fully Healthy!

A Breakthrough!

In Diet and Weight, Family Doctor, Food and Health, Mindless Eating, Self Image on December 1, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Just a few days ago I sat down with a patient and then nearly jumped back up again in excitement.

“Ms. J!  You’re doing it!”

“I know,” she said with a shy smile.

You have to understand, Ms. J and I have sat down opposite each other for more than a few appointments where nothing has really changed.  She usually beats up on herself for it, I usually ask her not to pick on my patient.  Then we talk again about motivation, about her pre-diabetes, about her family’s health, the usual.

What I can’t remember ever talking about is success like this!  She has steadily dropped a pound a week for the last 3 months (the pace I usually recommend.)

Even better, her blood work has come back to normal just that quickly.  Seeing a genuine smile on her face and not hearing a single negative word about herself was great, let me tell you.  Seeing a new determination and understanding that she is in control was even better.

Best of all?  Knowing the long-term effect her better choices could have on her family.

According to Dr. Brian Wansink, Ms. J is a nutritional gatekeeper.  In our culture, Mom is often the one who plans, shops for and prepares meals and snacks.  This means that when Mom gets motivated to choose healthy foods and habits, everybody at home finds their eating habits moving the same way.  I love it!

Eat Healthfully, Live Fully Healthy!

Social Eating

In Diet and Weight, Mindless Eating on August 4, 2011 at 12:20 pm

In an earlier post I warned that there would be much more to come from Dr. Brian Wansink. His book Mindless Eating is a great read – I keep picking it up, shaking my head in amazement, laughing a few times, then blogging on it.

Chapter 5 is about the social cues of eating, called Mindless Eating Scripts. Wansink: “When we’re with people we enjoy, we often lose track of how much we’re eating. We eat longer than we otherwise would, and we let others set the pace for how fast and how much we eat.”

Come on, really? Isn’t that what you’re thinking? I’ve doubted and then been converted in each of the four previous chapters. Each time he throws out a “come on, man” statement then goes on to prove it and does it again here.

Apparently this “more table mates, more calories” thing is so well known that one of his colleagues has a math formula to calculate just how much more I’ll eat! Professor John DeCastro calculated the table below, showing how much more food people eat as the number of friends at the table climbs.

Unfortunately this makes a lot of sense. Who wants to be the rude one to leave first? Who can keep track of how many rolls or chips or buffalo wings they’ve eaten when the conversation gets loud and fun?

He talks about other studies where people are influenced by even total strangers to eat as much and as quickly as they eat. He describes a study by two of his colleagues that staged lunches of pizza and soda. They measured how much people ate when alone then compared it to later lunches when there would be a larger group present.

Of course, some people ate a lot and others ate less when alone. When placed in a group, though, the power eaters cut back to nearer the group average in pizza slices eaten and the picky eaters ate more to try to fit in!

Peer pressure is in our genes, people! Actually, this is one of his “take home” points for this chapter. We can’t fight the peer pressure every time but we can use it to our advantage. He recommends:
1) Pace your eating to the slowest person at the table
2) Be the last one to start eating
3) Decide before ordering how much you will eat then make that amount last the whole meal

Great stuff here, as always. I can’t say enough good things about this book and will keep coming back to the treasure trove for more healthy tips. In the meantime…

Change Your Food, Change Your Life!


Ice Cream for Scientists

In Diet and Weight, Mindless Eating on July 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm

technicolor ice cream on doctorfoodtruth

I keep coming back to the book Mindless Eating.  I am just enthralled with the psychological facts Dr. Brian Wansink has uncovered about eating.  This little book is chock-full of funny and eye-opening university studies about our food habits.  I highly recommend getting a copy!  If you’re interested, follow the link above to get in on Amazon.

In one study, Dr. Wansink invited a group of dietitians, nutritionists, and other food scientists to his facility for a celebration ice cream social immediately after lunch.  Since each of these people knows Dr. Wansink and knows how much he likes to analyze what and where and why and how much people eat, you’d think they would have known what was coming.  Apparently, they didn’t.

He arranged for each person to randomly get either a small or large serving bowl and either a small or large spoon to eat with.  As people gave their bowls back, he secretly weighed and photographed what was left, then asked each how much they ate. Since these people were all highly educated in food and nutrition, he made the questions a little tougher, asking them to estimate the number of calories they ate, the percent of the serving they ate, and so on.

So how did these smart, educated food people do when he put them on the spot?  Terrible, just like the rest of us!  What Dr. Wansink shows again and again is that when it comes to eating, we don’t waste a thought on it.  Professional food people and Joe or Jane off the street do about the same when eating while distracted.

His colleagues ate more and faster with the bigger spoons out of the bigger bowls, just as he predicted. Knowledge and good intentions can’t protect us from instinct, he says.  Once we master eating without missing our mouth, about age 2, we’re done thinking about eating forever.  Before we start eating and (maybe) after we’re done we can think about our food but while the meal is going?  Most of us don’t spare a thought for the calories.

So what to do?  Again, he offers simple, usable advice.  Decide before you sit down how much you want to eat.  Use smaller utensils and taller, thinner glasses and smaller plates to fool your brain.  Stop and think during the meal, even if the conversation is flowing.

I know that the calories count.  These are some hints we can all use to keep them from counting against us.

Change Your Food, Change Your Life!


In Mindless Eating on June 14, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Here’s a reader’s picture submission, inspired by Beware the Bucket!


Beware the Bucket!

In Diet and Weight, Junk Food, Mindful Eating, Mindless Eating on June 14, 2011 at 12:42 pm

I posted previously about my favorite food psychologist Dr. Brian Wansink and his book Mindless Eating.  I promised coming posts related to his book, so here is the first.

On the cover of Dr. Wansink’s book is a picture of tubs of popcorn.  One of the studies that will catch your attention early in the book is not just about popcorn but about stale movie popcorn.

He set up a situation where people going to the movies were offered free popcorn.  The trick was that the popcorn was a plant.  He had popped it over a week earlier and put it into huge bags to get stale.  Then he set up with the concession stand that the people getting the free popcorn would only get his ‘special’ corn.

As people lined up for their free popcorn, they were randomly either given a ‘medium’ which was the same as the large the theater sold or a ‘large’ which was almost double that size.  After the movie, a Bruce Willis action flick, the folks who got the free popcorn were taken aside to ask them about the popcorn and weigh what they had left in their buckets.

Everyone told him that the popcorn was stale and tasted bad, yet everyone had eaten it anyway.  Not just a handful either.  Everyone had their own bucket so there was no need to share; most people had eaten well over half their bucket-full!  He asked them simple things like if they had eaten lunch before coming to the movie, if they liked the popcorn, if they were hungry when they ate the popcorn, and how much of the popcorn they had eaten.

People were very honest telling him what they thought about the popcorn.  Likewise they were honest when he matched up their answers about being hungry and whether they ate lunch before the movie.  But here’s where it gets interesting:  Everyone thought the popcorn was bad, everyone ate a very large amount of popcorn, and everyone thought they hadn’t really done more than nibble at it and put it down.

Everyone thought they had used willpower to keep from overeating.  Even when they were shown how much they ate most wouldn’t believe it.  Some even accused him of switching buckets to trick them.  Even worse, the people with the large buckets ate almost 40% more despite thinking the same thing about the popcorn and being just as likely to have not been hungry and being just as sure they hadn’t overeaten.

These folks ate up to 2000 calories of popcorn they admitted they hated just because it was there!  These were just regular people nibbling for 2 hours while watching Bruce Willis shoot bad guys, but because eating popcorn is what their habits expected while watching a movie, they did it, even if they denied eating it afterwards.

Dr. Wansink pointed to three things that tripped up everyone: habit, size, and distraction.  My guess is that if the popcorn were offered to people going to a courtroom or the ballet, not many would have taken it and very little would have been eaten.  But in the dark at the movies?  Eating popcorn is normal, so our habits take over.

The bucket size was another trip-up for people.  This has been true in every study ever done on this topic.  Bigger bowls lead to bigger eating, every time.  The last piece that led to overeating bad popcorn was the distraction of an exciting movie.  I think that if he had put people into small, plain rooms and told them he wanted them to test the popcorn, most would have tried a handful then given up in disgust and walked out.  Here the movie was interesting, it’s too dark to really see how much popcorn you’ve eaten, and heck, it was free.  Voila!  2000 calories.

I think this shows one of the many ways these easy calories sneak in, easy calories that add up to a few pounds a year.  Easy calories that can add up to being 60 pounds overweight, sick and for a 20th year class reunion.  Mind your food!  Our habits are too strong and too unwise to let them be our eating guide.

Change Your Bowl, Change Your Life!

Loves to Learn

In Mindless Eating on June 4, 2011 at 12:21 pm
Amazon Cardboard Boxes on doctorfoodtruth

Everybody loves a smile

Friends and family can tell you, I’m kind of a nerd.  I love reading and learning and always seem to have another book order from Amazon on the way.  Sometimes philosophy, sometimes fiction, other times history, theology, science, or medicine.

Wednesday, I got a box with the smile on it and found something I had ordered but forgotten: Mindless Eating.  As I’ve said, Brian Wansink has been my favorite food shrink for three or four years now.  He’s done so many research studies that it seems I can always find another to amuse and amaze myself with.  I stumbled across his book somewhere, added it to my Amazon cart, and forgot it.

Later that night, I sat down with his book and some Knob Creek on the rocks.  Very cool stuff in there, let me tell you! (The book, not the tumbler.)  He is an amazing writer, able to turn dry science stuff into genuinely entertaining stories.  I won’t venture into content just yet, though you can count on many future posts inspired  by Mindless Eating.

Finding someone who is already great at doing what I dream of doing is exciting.  Dr. Wansink has made a passionate career of studying diet habits, food psychology, and weight gain/loss.  He writes, speaks, and consults all over the country.  Sounds good to me!  Food Truths, Food Lies, my first attempt at food and diet education, has really given me the bug for more writing and teaching.

Finding new ways to help people wake up and make a change has always excited me.  I’m finding out that getting to write and speak on these topics gives me an even bigger spark.  Look out, world!

Eat Healthfully, Live Fully Healthy!