Friday, March 30, 2012

Mindless eating... it's how we eat!

One of the books I relied on for good -- and fascinating -- information for How We Did It was Dr. Brian Wansink's Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think.

Dr. Wansink is called a "food psychologist." From his lab at Cornell University, he conducts experiments into the factors that lead us to eat what we eat. And you'd think that we eat what we eat because it tastes good, right? Wrong!

In some of his crazy experiments, Dr. Wansink has uncovered the many misguided reasons we eat. Among them are these:

  • The size and shape of a bowl can almost double the amount of food you eat.
  • Restaurants can get you to eat more by describing their menu items with adjectives.
  • You will eat more candy if you throw away the wrappers as you go along than if you let the wrappers pile up.
  • If you have bread served with dipping oil rather than with butter, you'll consume less bread but more calories.
  • Grocery store signs that read 3-for-$3 rather than $1/each can more than double our purchases.

These are just a few of the fascinating facts Dr. Wansink has confirmed with his research. How can you apply this information to your food consumption? "By encouraging healthy, mindful eating, we can decrease obesity," Wansink says. "A keen awareness of all these hidden persuaders is an important step in controlling the amount and quality of food you eat."

For me, "mindful eating" means this:
I will not eat straight from a package. If I want some crackers, I'll put some on a plate.
I will not eat something just because it's there. Most chocolate made in the U.S. tastes like wax. I've stopped eating my son's leftover Halloween candy. If I want chocolate, I'll eat just a little bit of really good chocolate.
I absolutely do not shop when I'm hungry. The temptations are just too overwhelming. I'll have a small, healthy snack before I go, even if I'm in a hurry.
If I eat while watching TV, I choose the snack beforehand and set it out on the coffee table. No trips to the kitchen during a show!

How about you? What does "mindful eating" mean for you?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fast food = slow progress

It's a beautiful day here in the Northeast, more like May than March. I'm going to strap on my sneakers and go walk around town in a minute.

Walking is a great activity for weight maintenance. But its benefit also can be deceiving. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking, "Oh, I just walked for a half hour. Now I can go get that hamburger I've been craving."

Most people overestimate the benefit of exercise and underestimate the damage that fat and sugar-laden food can do. For example, say you eat a Big Mac meal with medium fries. (Let’s assume a diet drink, just to be virtuous.)

According to McDonald’s nutritional information, a Big Mac has 540 calories, while the medium order of fries has 380 calories, so your meal totals 1,480 calories.
How long to you think you’d have to exercise to burn off those calories? An hour? Two hours? Guess again.
According to the most recent government data, a 154-pound person would need to walk briskly for more than three hours to account for this meal! A more sedate pace would require more than five hours of hoofing.
And consider this: Most people who have a plan for losing weight do it by trying to limit their daily calorie intake. That same 154-pound person might have set a limit of 1,500 calories a day. Wow! They'll have a whole 20 calories to play with that day!
And when we're talking fast food, we can't neglect to talk about fat content. Again, consider the medium Big Mac meal. Of the Big Mac's 540 calories, 260 of them come from fat. It contains 29 grams of fat -- fully 45 percent of the recommended daily value. And the fries? Of the 380 calories, 170 come from fat. Their 19 grams of fat are 29 percent of the recommended daily value. So together, the two items account for 74 percent of your daily allotment.
Is that meal really worth it?
Most people who talked with me about their weight loss for How We Did It pinned their weight dilemma on overindulgence in fast food. McDonalds, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Five Guys, Cinnabon, Pizza Hut--the list of fast food outlets is almost literally endless.
So, the next time you want to reward yourself after a workout, banish the thought of junk food. I'm usually starving after I swim my laps and need something with a little protein, so I put together some cheese and crackers and apple slices. What do you do?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

We've hit the airwaves!

I was interviewed recently about How We Did It by Andy Farmer of KNEO radio. KNEO is a Missouri radio station that also reaches parts of Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas.

Andy asked some great questions about the book: How DID people do it? Is weight loss a one-size-fits-all proposition? What are some of your favorite success stories in the book? (To which I replied: All of them!) What can we do about the childhood obesity rate in this country?

To listen to the interview, click on this link to go to KNEO's website. Enjoy!