How many times in your life have you sat in front of the TV munching away at a big bowl of popcorn –only to look down and find the bowl empty–and to your shock and horror you didn’t even really experience it?

Did you know that there is someone who actually studies all the different ways we mindlessly overeat?

Well there is and over the years–he and his team of research assistants have made some super fascinating and funny discoveries!

I will be sharing with you some juicy bits of this wonderful study through the book of Professor Brian Wansink, “Mindless Eating: Why We More than We Think,” here in the 50th episode of our Thin Thinking Podcast.

I am sure that you will enjoy this episode not only because of the hilarious yet true studies, but also because of the very useful tools that this book can give you for your weight mastery journey.

In This Episode, You'll Learn:

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Rita Black: Did you know that there is someone who actually studies all the different ways we mindlessly overeat? Yep. Our snacking habits have been studied and put through some pretty interesting tests by professor Brian Wansink and a team of graduate students with some very interesting and often hilarious findings. So today, in the Thin Thinking Podcast, we dive into the thin thinking read recommendation "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think." And we'll share a few juicy tidbit that may brighten your day, enlighten your mind, and also reduce that mindless TV snacking just a bit too. So, let's get started.

Rita Black: Did you know that our struggle with weight doesn't start with the food on your plate or get fixed in the gym? 80% of our weight struggle is mental. That's right, the key to unlocking long-term weight release and management begins in your mind. Hi there, I'm Rita Black. I'm a clinical hypnotherapist, weight loss expert, best-selling author, and the creator of the Shift Weight Mastery Process. And not only have I helped thousands of people over the past 20 years achieve long-term weight mastery, I am also a former weight struggler, carb addict, and binge eater. And after two decades of failed diets and fad weight loss programs, I lost 40 pounds with the help of hypnosis. Not only did I release all that weight, I have kept it off for 25 years. Enter the Thin Thinking Podcast where you too will learn how to remove the mental roadblocks that keep you struggling. I'll give you the thin thinking tools, skills, and insights to help you develop the mindset you need. Not only to achieve your ideal weight, but to stay there long-term and live your best life. Sound good. Let's get started.

Rita Black: Hello there friends. I am very thrilled to be diving into today's thin thinking, read, Mindless Eating is a book that was published well over a decade ago. So it's not something that's new out on the market. But I really have been thinking about sharing this with you guys for a really long time, because this is one of my favorite books. And I used to have a copy of this book right by my office. I have this big reclining hypnosis chair. It's very comfy and people would sit in that chair and look at this book and say, oh, what's this book all about? And, I told them, you know, it's a bunch of cool research studies into mindless eating as well as some great strategies for snacking and eating healthier. And I actually had the pleasure of meeting professor Wansink in 2011 and I had him sign my book, which was thrilling. He was in Manhattan beach doing a keynote speech for the blue zone project, which was a very fascinating project we can talk about another time.

Rita Black: But what I wanna say is that pretty much everyone I turned onto this book thanked me and got as much enjoyment out of it. As I did. Maybe you've read it yourself. Because let's face it, mindless eating can be a big deal and often we are so mindless. We don't even realize that it has become a big deal. That is what this book dives into. And I must say, it's pretty hilarious how unconscious we get around food. So what I'm gonna do, like I always do with our thin thinking reads is I'm gonna just read to you from the book and give you some tasty tidbits from it. But I'm gonna start by reading the overview of the book just so you have an idea.

Rita Black: So food psychologists, Brian Wansink revolutionizes our awareness of how much, what and why we're eating often without realizing it, his findings will astound you. Can the size of your plate really influence your appetite? Why do you eat more when you dine with friends? What hidden persuaders are used by restaurants and supermarkets to get us to overeat? How does music or the color of the room influence how much, how fast we eat? How can we mindless lose instead of gain up to 20 pounds in the coming year. Starting today, you can make more mindful, enjoyable and healthy choices at the dinner table, in the supermarket, at the office, wherever you satisfy your appetite.

Rita Black: Okay. Sounds good. All right. So I'm gonna gonna just dive into the book. I've highlighted and earmarked three different ones that, three different sections I thought you would find fascinating. I kind of giggle when I read them. So I hope you giggle a bit too.

Rita Black: This is from chapter two, The Forgotten Food. Your stomach can't count. It can't count the number of spoonfuls of golden grams you had for breakfast. It can't count the number of ounces in the overpriced frappuccino you drank on the way to work. It can't count the number of French fries and you inhaled in the first 90 seconds of your lunch. It can't count the number of calories in the aptly named chubby hubby ice cream that you ate standing in front of the refrigerator when you got home. Our stomachs are bad at math and what's more, we get no help from our attention or our memory don't register how many pieces of candy we ate from the communal candy dish at work. And whether we ate 20 French fries or 30. It gets even worse when we're dining out with our family and friends. Five minutes after dinner, 31% of the people leaving an Italian restaurant couldn't even remember how much bread they ate. And 12% of the bread eaters denied having eaten any bread at all.

Rita Black: I love that. It's so true. Considering our imperfect food memory, it seems that the last person we should rely upon to stop eating is ourselves. It's not necessarily that we're trying to fool ourselves or that are living in blissful, snug clothing, denial. We're just not designed to accurately keep track of how much we've consumed. If we could see what we've eaten, we would probably eat less. For instance, if we could see all of the Chinese food we shoveled onto our buffet plates, or if we could see all of the handfuls of potato chips that we've already inhaled before reaching for another, we would probably stop eating before the point our stomach hurts. Unfortunately, most foods don't leave a table trace. That is after we eat them, all the evidence is gone. All that remains is an empty plate.

Rita Black: Chicken wings. Now all known by sports bar sophisticates as Buffalo wings are different. After we finish a chicken wing, the bony evidence remains. If we eat three chicken wings, we, we see three bones. If we eat eight chicken wings, we see eight bones. This gave my graduate students and me an idea. Usually when people are given all of the chicken wings, they can eat such as at a party or a sports bar, the bones are continuously bust from the table and we lose track of how many we've eaten. But what would happen if the bones stayed right there? Every time the party goers looked down, there would be a stark reminder, a stunning bony count. Would this lead them to eat less?

Rita Black: On one super bowl Sunday, we invited 53 MBA students to a party at a local sports bar to test our idea. We promised them free chicken wings, a big screen, and a great excuse to avoid studying. When the hungry MBA students arrived, they were led into a private party area and seated on bars stool at the high four person tables. In the center of the room was the Buffalo buffet loaded with heaping steam trays of wings and a number of sauces that looked like scolding cheese whiz, or scorch, low price, barbecue sauce. After ordering, they wanted to drink softdrinks for free and the students circled the buffet and pounced. They took all the wings they wanted and returned to their tables. When they finished their chicken wings, they could pile up the bones in empty bowls that were conveniently provided on each table. Throughout the evening, whenever they wanted more wings, all they had to do was roll off their bar stool and amble over to the Buffalo buffet. Every time the super bowl commercials came on, they could disrespectfully ignore millions of dollars worth of advertising genius and go refill their plates. The waitresses were working with us and they were instructed to bust the leftover chicken bones from only half of the tables they bust these tables three or four times through the night, each time leaving a clean empty bowl for future bones. While the waitresses were out front, we were in the kitchen. When they brought the bones back to the kitchen, they told us which table each bowl came from. Then we counted and weighed the number of leftover bones to determine how much the people at that table had eaten. But that's only half the story.

Rita Black: The waitresses had also been instructed to ignore the growing piles of bones on the other tables. They could stop by and take drink or orders, but the bones just kept piling up where they lay. After the game was over and the happy MBA students had left the building, we went over to these tables, counted the bones, weighed them and rolled the garbage cans over. Sometimes it even surprises us how predictable people are. If our guests had their tables, can continuously bust, they continually ate. Clean plate, clean table, get more, eat more. Their stomachs could not count so the clear table group kept eating until they thought they were full. They ate an average of seven chicken wings a piece.

Rita Black: The people at the bone table were less of a threat to the chicken population. After the super bowl was over, they had eaten an average of two fewer chicken wings per person, 28% less than those whose tables had been bust. Our stomach can't count. And we don't either, unless we can actually see what we're eating, we can very easily overeat. Unless a person consistently weighs him or herself, most people start realizing they've overeaten and have gained weight only when their clothing gets uncomfortably tight. Interesting. Huh? I love that story. And believe me, I have been, I'm very aware of that while dining out is very interesting, especially with the chicken wings. My, my husband loves the chicken wings. So we keep the bones at the table. Okay. So here is one that's called The Seafood Trap.

Rita Black: There was a silly one liner that was a big hit in my fourth grade hot lunch room for about two weeks after someone ravenously finished a large lunch, a kid would say, you must be on the seafood diet because you, you eat everything you see. Most people are on seafood diets to some degree. Simply saying, or smelling of food can lead us to want to devour it. Think you have the willpower to avoid that little dish of chocolates you've that have been sitting on your office desk or in your living room? Think again. Suppose we give an office building full of secretaries nice covered dishes of 30 Hershey's chick kisses as a personal, not to be shared gift for secretaries week. Wow. This I think was really written in the early 2000s. This is a little dated, but bear with me. This is an interesting experiment.

Rita Black: The glass dishes are identical except for one detail, half are clear and half are white. So they totally hide the chocolates if the lid is on. Now, suppose that every night after the secretaries go home, we count how many they have eaten. Refill the dish and continue this for two weeks. Dr. Jim Painter and I did this study and had fun doing it. Everybody loves free chocolates. Unfortunately, the results aren't so fun for anyone who's trying to watch what they eat. Secretaries who had been given candies in clear desktop dishes were caught with their hand in the candy dish 71% more often as those given white dishes. Every day that dish was on their desk, they ate 77 more calories. Over a year that candy dish would've added over five pounds of extra weight. What is a little scary is that none of them, would've probably known where those pounds came from. It's not just candy on the desk. This principle of can follow us through the day.

Rita Black: In a classic line of studies started at Columbia University in the mid-1960s, researchers put a plate of food such as small chicken salad sandwiches in front of people during lunch. Some would be given food covered with transparent wrap and others would be given food cover with aluminum foil. Or if you were in living in England, that would be aluminum foil. In nearly all these studies, people ate more of the food in transparent wrap than in the foil. Why does this happen? We eat more of these visible seafoods because we think about them more. Every time we see the candy jar, we have to decide whether we want a Hershey's kiss or whether we don't. Every time we see it, we have to say no to something that is tasty and tempting. If we see that temperatures of a candy jar every five minutes, it means needing to say no 12 times in the first hour, 12 times in the second hour. And so on. Eventually some of those no's turn into yes, usually form of, well, okay. Just this once. Out of sight, out of mind. In sight, in mind.

Rita Black: So, just to add to this is again, you know, one of a big skills of weight mastery is stimulus control. And, and really this is speaking to that idea that if we see something, you know, if we have a food on the counter in our kitchen, or even if we know like it's in our cupboard and it's a trigger food, it calls our name and we're always having to have a relationship with it. We're always having to say Nope. Nope, Nope, Nope. And it wears this down. So, I, I really love that part of the study where he's just underlying this. Okay. Now this is the last bit I'm gonna read to you. I hope you're enjoying this. It's kind of fun to read these things over again, cause it's been a little while since I've visited this. Okay. So as we get to awards the back of the book, he starts to give some ideas about what, how we can manage things. So, this is Think Extra Small and Extra Large.

Rita Black: Why do food companies supersize? From 1970 to 2000, the number of new larger sized packages increased tenfold. There are two reasons. One, to satisfy our demand for value and two, to match the competition. There will always be people who want to buy a lot of food for very little money. If only one restaurant provided supersized value meals, it would catch both our attention and our $3.59. If the competitor across the street, didn't quickly do the same, they'd have to start closing up shop. But while some of us want supersized values, others want smaller packages. We call these the portion prone segment. For instance, we found that half of the loyal users of one popular snack food said that they would pay 15% more for a new package that helped them better control how much they ate. Although smaller packages would be more expensive per ounce compared to larger one, this portion prone segment would be willing to pay more, to eat less or to eat better. Given the 43 billion spent on diet foods and weight loss programs each year, this is probably a big segment of people. It's probably a lot more money now. Should companies abandon the value priced supersized packages in favor of the little boutique sized portion packs? Absolutely not. There are sizable markets for both. One that wants value and one that wants portion control. Some snack food companies have started to capitalize on this with the new 100 calorie packages, which isn't so new anymore. Create packages with pause points.

Rita Black: Remember when we moved from candy dish, six feet away from the secretaries and they ate half as many, I guess that was the second part that I didn't read you, but they, they moved the candy dishes away as a way of stimulus control. Well, remember when we moved the candy dish, six feet away from the secretaries and they half as many, they told us that the six-foot distance gave them time to pause and to ask themselves whether they were really hungry. In the same way, building pause points into packaging can give people a chance to ask themselves if they really want to keep eating. Pause points can be created by creating a large container or by sorry. Pause points can be created by separating a large container into several smaller containers. For example, internal sleeves force us to actively make a decision to eat more. In the lab, we call this thin mint packaging, in honor of our favorite girl scout cookies. Instead of greeting us with a wide open, no serving size limit tray, thin mints are carefully wrapped into two sleeves. As much as you might want to overeat when you hit the bottom of that first sleeve, it gives you pause. That's about all, most of us need to stop. One of the more extreme versions of this principle can be found in Japan where many brands sell individually, packaged cookies.

Rita Black: Stopping points can take other forms. We showed this in one of our lab red chip studies. We took cans of Pringles potatoes and a tube and dyed every seventh chip red. In other cans, we dye every 14th chip red and the last group of cans we left plain, no red chips. We then set up a video, invited people into enjoy some Pringles. Those who ate from the cans where every seventh chip was red, ate an average of 10. Those who ate from the cans where every 14th chip was red ate an average of 15. Those with no red chips, ate 23. Having something, almost anything to interrupt our eating gives us the chance to decide if we want to continue.

Rita Black: Large multi packs containing smaller individual servings also provide natural breaking points. We tested this concept when we gave to 124 students, either a large zip lock bag containing 200 M&Ms or a large zip lock bag that in turn contained 10 smaller bags, each containing 20 M&Ms. When there was only one bag to open, people ate an average of 73 M&Ms during an hour. Those with the smaller bag usually ate a multiple of 10. When the hour was over, they had eaten an average of 42 each, not a big deal. That's 112 less the mindless margin.

Rita Black: All right, I could keep reading for hours, but I feel like that's enough. It gave you a nice little tasty tidbit and maybe something to think about as you go into your week, thinking about, I love that idea of creating those natural pause points in your eating. And, maybe that's something that you can take into your idea of, you know, adding that to the stimulus control in your life. But I love this book. I highly recommend it if you are interested in and, abstaining from mindless eating and moving out of old patterns, it's very illuminating. And like I said, and like, hopefully you could see it's very entertaining.

Rita Black: All right, you guys, so here's an announcement. Just make sure you are on our email list because we have our first anniversary of our podcast coming up. And I'm gonna be giving away some pretty cool stuff. So starting next week. I'll make that announcement. So, you know, make sure that you're all joined up so that you can learn more about what we're doing and you can sign up in the show notes. Check it out. So have an amazing week and remember that the key and probably the only key to unlocking the door, the weight struggle is inside you. So keep listening and find it. Thank you. And I look forward to seeing you next week.

Rita Black: Thanks for listening to the thin thinking podcast. Did that episode go by way too fast for you? If so, and do you want to dive deeper into the mindset of long-term weight release? Head on over to where you'll find numerous tools and resources to help you unlock your mind for permanent weight release, tips, strategies, and more, and be sure to check the show notes to learn more about my book From Fat to Thin Thinking: Unlock Your Mind For Permanent Weight Loss, and to learn how to subscribe to the podcast so that you never miss an episode.