n her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, Mindy Kaling is all, I love diet books, and I am like WOMAN I HEAR YOU. There’s something about them. I mean, I love gratuitous eating, but I also love rigidity and structure and being told what to do. Diet books are like EAT THIS and I am like OKAY and then two weeks later I’m back in the King Dongs and I like being this way. Don’t judge me.
Anywert, this is not a diet book. This is about the psychology of eating (‘psychology of anything’ being my other favorite topic), and about how to eat only what you WANT to eat, and I strongly approve this message. Because I don’t like the idea that packaging and lighting can trick me into eating more gas station hand pies than I plan to. I’m totally fine with eating six as long as I WANTED to eat six.
Science likes to tell us how often we do things, like swallow spiders in our sleep, and according to Science, we make 200ish food decisions a day, which is a lot, so mostly we automate those decisions and thanks to our cavemen-brains our autodecisions are calculated to see us through the sort of calorie-deficient winter we are unlikely to bump up against (‘we’ being us first-worldians. All my third-world readers, eat whatever youalls can get your hands on and hey, good work on having the internet!). Even in this, the Land Of Plentiful Fats, the lizard-brain says MOAR FATS, and the mouth is like WORD.
And the real danger isn’t in the turkey dinner, because we look at our ruined plate and think, I may have over-done it, I will now eat a salad. The danger lies in the mindless margin, those extra fifteen chips, that extra cookie, the extra eighteen handfuls of popcorn we didn’t realize we were eating because the size of our popcorn bag and the sounds of popcorn around us and the fact that we’re at a movie all says to us, Eat thusly, and thusly we eat.
The book is full of Experiments (as Science is wont to be) and the basic theme running through the Experiments is that we think we eat what we eat in the amounts that we eat ON PURPOSE, but that given a tall glass and a short glass, we will all pour more calorific beverage into a short glass because our brains our defective like that. Therefore we should replace all the short glasses in our houses with tall glasses. Automatic less-juice-drinking with no effort! Because the easiest diet to follow is the one you don’t know you’re on.
And the brain is a tricksy beast that cares not for nutritional information and serving sizes. Wansink asks, ‘When you go to a “healthy” restaurant, do you pay attention to what you eat, or do you eat with abandon because you think it’s generally healthy’ and yes, when I go to Subway (which I STILL DO despite how off-putting those $5 footlong commercials are) I’m all, Subway = fresh veggies and Jared and therefore HEALTH so I will have the WHATEVER and I will have CHEESE MELTED ON IT POR FAVOR. This is why I don’t bring low-fat or sugar-free anything into my house, both because LIFE IS TOO SHORT and because I will see those and think, These fat-free cookies are
less bad actively good for me. It’s a sick mind that sees ‘low-fat’ and thinks ‘therefore some sort of vegetable’ and that mind lives in my head-case.
And Wansink is no Mary Roach or Bill Bryson, but non-fic doesn’t always have to be SOOER AMUSING to crank my chain. In fact, the few times Wansink goes for the hilarious! joke! it falls supah-flat. But the rest is delightfully informal and readable as hayull. Each chapter is A Way In Which Environment And Habit And Things Trump Willpower, and then an Action Step to deploy that in your healtheating favor. So even if reorganizing your eating habits isn’t on your to-do, this is still fascinating shit.
Also, by the end of the book, when a study’s subject is all, Of course I judge when to stop eating by my level of fullness, you can be all HO HO NO YOU DO NOT and you can feel so very smug. And then eat a sleeve of Thin Mints right through to the end because I Have Reached The End Of The Sleeve is a more assertive force than I Am Sated.
Fascinating and also practical! I dig. Nine caterpillars.