06 March 2009

March French Friday #1

Happy Friday to you gorgeous French people!  After a few days of sun which promised spring was coming, winter again retook her grip on the region.  It has been cold, dreary, rainy, and windy in our little corner of the world.  However, being French, I must look at the bright side, winter rains bring spring flowers.  Those little seeds that have been laying dormant all winter are soaking up that rain and are going to burst forth soon.  I will just pull my chic scarf a little tighter around my neck as I scurry to our favorite cafe.

I must hurry to our cafe today as I don't want to be late for the discussion that my friend, Tangled Noodle, is leading.  She too is discussing the book Mindless Eating Fridays in March, and I can't wait to hear her perspective on the book. 

Mindless Eating is a little bit of a departure for French Fridays as it is written by an AMERICAN MAN (of all the things!), but after Tangled Noodle recommended it to me, I loved it as I could see so many French principles put into practice (or tested) in the book.  The author, Brian Wansink, Ph.D., is a professor of Marketing and Nutritional Science at Cornell University where he studies food and consumer behavior.  Therefore, this book is vastly different from French Women Don't Get Fat, in that he discusses lots of individual studies of food and consumer behavior and then discusses how we can use that knowledge to help us trim calories by fooling ourselves.  Because of this, I will be discussing this book a little differently than French Women Don't Get Fat.  It would be too hard to discuss ALL the studies without endangering myself of copyright infringement, so I will pick one or two from the section we are discussing that I find most relevant to my own weight loss efforts, and discuss that.

Today, I'll be looking at the Introduction and Chapters 1-3 of Mindless Eating.  My, My!  Reading a book written by an American man has inadvertently put me in the American Mindset.  For a moment it was all business, business, business before pleasure!  I had almost forgotten my citron presse!  Oooh, and look at how wonderful the cafe's croissants look this morning!  I'll be right back!

Ah, that's better.  All settled in now with my citron presse, my croissant, and my good friends.  Let's gather around and see what we can learn from this American man!

Chapter 1:  The Mindless Margin

The first thing that jumped out at me was the very first study Brian Wansink talks about in Chapter 1:  Stale Popcorn and the Frail Willpower.  Here, he set up a study where he gave all of the people in a movie theater free popcorn and a drink in exchange for filling out a survey at the end of the movie.  To half the people, he gave medium sized buckets of popcorn, to the other half, huge buckets of popcorn.  All of the popcorn was 5 days stale so it would all taste equally as bad.  At the end of the movie, those who had been served the large sized buckets ate an average of 173 more calories than those who had the medium sized bucket.  Brian estimates that that was 21 more dips into the bucket that a person with a large bucket ate over the person with a medium bucket....of 5 day old, stale popcorn.

What we can learn from this:

When you serve yourself more, you eat more.  In theaters, or in fast food restaurants, order the small size to avoid extra calories.  Try to avoid buying groceries in bulk, when you have more, you will eat more.

Chapter 2:  The Forgotten Food

In this chapter, there is a study that Brian discusses called, "The Prison Pounds Mystery" where inmates in a Midwestern jail typically would put on 20-25 lbs. in an average 6 month sentence.  They had no idea they had gained the extra weight until they were released, given their old clothes back, and couldn't fit into their clothes.  He believes that it's because their orange jumpsuits are so "forgiving" that they could gain weight without noticing a change in their clothes.  They didn't have their zippers telling them they were gaining weight.

What we can learn from this:

What are you wearing in a typical day?  Is it fitted?  Does it have a zipper, or an elastic waist?  If it is fitted and has a zipper, you are more likely to notice when it gets a little difficult to zip up, however if it has an elastic waist or (oh my!) is a pair of sweats, you are likely not to notice when you gain a few pounds.  Take pride in your appearance!  Not only do fitted clothes look better on you, they will keep you from packing on a few pounds without noticing!

Also from Chapter 2:  Big Plates, Big Spoons, Big Servings

Here, Brian threw an ice cream party for people of his lab.  The attendees were graduate students getting their Ph.D.'s in food psychology, surely he can't trick them!  He gave some of them extra large bowls to put their ice cream in and others medium sized bowls, some of them large spoons, and others smaller spoons, and invited them to take as much ice cream as they wanted.  Those with the large bowls and large spoons dished themselves 57 percent more than those who were given the medium bowls and small spoons.  If most of us finish what we serve ourselves, that is a lot of extra calories!

What we can learn from this:

We can fool ourselves into eating less by eating off of smaller plates.  Have you noticed how plates seem to be getting bigger and bigger?  I have been looking for six months now for a new everyday dish set with small bowls with no luck!  Have you noticed the size of a plate at Applebee's recently?  What if we were to ask the waitress for a salad plate, re-plate our entree onto a salad plate and put the rest in a to-go box?  Would you feel as satisfied at the end of the meal?  Probably.  Probably even more satisfied as you didn't stuff yourself and have the guilt that goes along with it!

This book is FILLED with little tidbits.  It is impossible to discuss them all but there is so much to learn and glean from this book.  If you haven't picked up your copy yet, do so soon!  Next Friday, Tangled Noodle and I will be discussing chapters 4-6.  Please join us!  

Don't forget to pop on over to Tangled Noodle's discussion as well!  Here is a little snippet to get you interested!

Tangled Noodle says:

"Eating is one of the most basic and important functions for life - so why do we hit autopilot when it comes to nourishing ourselves? Stop by at Tangled Noodle as I discuss how our food choices are influenced by personal opinions ("As Fine as North Dakota Wine"), the amount of food ("We Believe Our Eyes, Not Our Stomach") and even the size of containers ("Big Plates, Big Spoons, Big Servings"). It may just give you something to think about."


Tangled Noodle said...

Good morning! I envy your ability to clearly and succinctly sum up the chapters, focusing on the most important themes. I'm looking forward to our next installment!

Chef E said...

You are so keeping me on track and helping make me realize I am not the only one trying to eat properly!

I also tried something similar out on a few people, gave them portions of the right amount, and they ate it and one said, boy I am full, but the plates were small, so it seemed like a lot, when in fact it was the amounts we should eat.

I also do not keep snacks any more, and found myself just last night hungry after nine, but glad I had nothing to chomp on! Only making enough portions for dinner and hubby's lunch the next day helps me not to graze...

Lori said...

I'm so excited to see this as the Friday feature. I have read so much about his research, but haven't read this book yet. I'm all ears...or...um.. eyes!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

I love your Fridays and look forward to them all week. My copy of the book is on the way and should arrive by next week. I had no idea the book was going to be filled with such interesting information.
We've been using smaller plates with success. I've also been wearing tight jeans around the house instead of something more comfortable and you're right. That reminds you right away how your clothes fit.
I'll be back for more. Au revoir until then.

zerrin said...

Wonderful post on how to be smarter while eating. I've just wondered that book. These are all true and I love the relationship between food and psychology. The larger bowl you have, the more food you put. That's certainly right! I'll keep this in my mind while serving for myself next time. Above all, you summarized it very well. "What we can learn from this chapter"s are so helpful. Thak you for this so informative post.

Mediterranean Turkish Cook said...

The topic of this book interests me quite a bit as I do read a lot about eating habits and health. I agree that big portions are dangerous and everything in moderation is the best. I can relate to you about looking for smaller bowls and not finding any. I also have been looking for smaller bowls and just cannot find the smaller bowls we use in Turkey, in any of the stores.

Anonymous said...

Hi -- I linked to your blog from Tangled Noodle and enjoyed both of your discussions. You both brought up different points. I really enjoyed it!

Justine said...

i had lot's of mindless eating today... snacking, baking, and eating because there was food in front of me (not one but 2 cake in fact!)

i also notice the second part that you mentioned- loose clothes, etc- to be true.

thanks for posting and keeping me aware and on the right (healthy, knowledgeable) track

Reeni♥ said...

I am in need of inspiration right now. My trip to the scale this morning didn't go well. I fell back into old habits the past two weeks. This week I'm going to eat off smaller plates and see how that goes.

Sara said...

Thanks for the info on this book...I will have to check it out. It sounds really interesting. :)