Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Why do we eat more than what we should when we go to "an all you can eat buffet" or when we go out for chinese food or when we dish out too much ice cream into a large cereal bowl and then add chocolate sauce?  In the May edition of Nutrition Action Health Letter, an article written by Brian Wansink, explains about the external cues that make us overeat.  Mr. Wansink has written a book on this topic "Mindless Eating - Why We Eat More Than We Think".

There are a number of things that caught my attention in this article.  Things we need to think about include:
  • Of course we overeat because of feeling emotional, or we had a horrible day, or we were bored, or we were feeling blue.  But there are other things that influence us.
  • We eat more candies when the candy jar is closer to our work desk and if they are in a clear bowl.
  • A descriptive name to describe a dish is more appetizing than a plain name and we would choose to eat an entree with a fancier name.
  • Eating slower translates into eating fewer calories.
  • Use smaller plates, smaller bowls and smaller forks.  If you serve the same quantity of food on a larger or smaller plate, it will appear as more food served on a smaller plate.  This does work for me.
  • If you are a woman and following another woman in front of you in a buffet line, you will mimic more the portion she takes than if you were following a guy.  I know that I am more aware of what I am eating if I am following someone in the buffet line who is careful about what they are eating. 
  • We underestimate the calories we are eating if the food is labelled low fat or low calorie.  Plus we eat more as we feel the food has less calories.  
  • We can always find a way to rationalize to eat more.
  • People eat food that is on table more frequently than food that is off the table.  Leave the salad and vegetables on the table and the meat and carbohydrates on the counter or stove.  Make it more difficult to take second helpings.   
The article provides some material for self reflection and questions you need to ask yourself when you find you are overeating or just mindless eating.


  1. We also have a "food celebration" mentality. Big meals used to happen after hard work or at the end of a long day of harvest. We are no longer harvesting but are still eating feasts.

  2. After just wrapping up a week of eating out in San Francisco and doing my share of people watching, my theory is reinforced ... There's lots of big portions consumed in the USA.