6 Week Mindless Eating Challenge: Week #4 Notes & Discussion Questions

Reading and implementing what I learned from the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink was a real turning point in my weight loss journey.

It was the tipping point that led to achieving the peace with food I’d been seeking while maintaining the Weight Watchers goal weight I’d set back in my late 20s.


6-Week Mindless Eating Challenge Background

Now seven years later, as I settle in at the scene of this healthy exploration (Land O’ Lakes, WI), I thought it would be fun to create a 6-week Mindless Eating Challenge to help others experience what I discovered.

While Weight Watchers friendly recipes are important, they are only one part of the equation. Learning how to manage our environment and develop healthy habits are the critical elements of lasting weight loss success.

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think helped me see this.

But it’s not enough to just read a book. You have to practice what you discover. Which is what this challenge is all about.

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
~ Confucius

For this challenge, we will all read Mindless Eating and share our awarenesses and experiences. Every week for six weeks, from July 10 – August 14, we’ll read two chapters a week and share what we learn.

I’ll kick things off every Monday with a post, which will give provide participants a place to comment with their discoveries, if they’d like.

It seems like a perfect summer project: A virtual book club, but with homework 🙂

To be most effective, this challenge is best undertaken in a low key “let’s just see what we discover” manner. No pressure. No way to fail.

But it does provide a bit of accountability if you find it helpful in propelling you into action.

All you need to do to take part is buy the book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, by Brian Wansink  (or borrow it from your library).

Here’s the basic schedule:

6-Week Mindless Eating Challenge Schedule

Why Try This 6-Week Mindless Eating Challenge
Mindless Eating Challenge Kick-Off
Week #1: July 10 – Chapters 1 & 2
Week #2: July 17 – Chapters 3 & 4
Week #3: July 24 – Chapter 5 & 6
Week #4: July 31 – Chapters 7 & 8
Week #5: August 7 – Chapters 9 & 10
Week #6: August 14 – Appendix B & Wrap-Up

My Notes & Thoughts on Mindless Eating Chapters 7 & 8

The Bottom Line:

There are a lot of myths concerning comfort foods.
Comfort food choices are gender specific.
Comfort food choices are almost always subconsciously formed.
Food preferences are linked to personality.
72% of food decisions of the husband/kids in a home is controlled by the “nutritional gatekeeper” – the person who does most of the grocery shopping and meal preparation.
You can improve nutritional health by increasing the variety of foods you eat.
Kids eating behaviors are strongly influenced by those of their parents/caregivers.
The Half-Plate Rule is an easy way to make sure you are eating in a balanced way. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables and the other half with a combination of protein and starch.

Weight Loss Strategies:

Don’t deprive yourself.
Keep comfort foods but eat them in smaller amounts. (This is critical for me. Once I tell myself I can’t have something it’s all I can think about.)
Rewire your comfort foods.
Start pairing healthier foods with positive events. Instead of celebrating with a decadent over-the-top chocolate sundae try a small scoop of ice cream with fresh strawberries. Over time you may actually come to prefer it.
Use the half-plate rule to balance your meals.
Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables and the other half with a combination of protein and starch.
Portion out snacks.
If you see more on the counter you want more. (This even applies to young kids.)

Related: Be Sure to Check Out Comfort Food Favorites – My Bestselling eBook of Comfort Food Recipes Made Lighter and Healthier

Notes from Mindless Eating Chapter 7: Comfort Food

Top 3 Comfort Food Myths:

Comfort Food Myth #1:
Most comfort foods are indulgently unhealthy.

While the #1 comfort food – potato chips – is less than healthy, about 40% of them are fairly healthy: pasta, meats (like meat loaf), soups, main dishes, casseroles, etc.

Comfort Food Myth #2:
Most people tend to eat comfort foods when they are sad, stressed or bored.

In reality people eat comfort foods more often when “happy,” “celebrating,” and “rewarding themselves.”
Happy Moods = Comfort Foods
To be satisfying the food has to taste and look like you remember it to work its magic.
Happy moods result in healthier comfort food choices
Sad moods result in less healthy comfort food choices

Comfort Food Myth #3:
Comfort food preferences become fixed when we are children.

Comfort food preferences can develop at any age/stage of life.

Comfort Food Choices are Gender Specific:

Top 3 comfort food for men: ice cream, soup, pizza & pasta

Men tended to rank hot foods and meal type foods higher. They described feeling “pampered,” “spoiled,” “waited on,” and “cared for” by mom or wife by these foods. These foods represented “work” to women and who chose them as comfort foods much less often.

Top 3 comfort foods for women: ice cream, chocolate, cookies

Women tended to rank “snack” foods as preferred comfort foods more often. Part of the “comfort” for them was their “hassle-free” ease and convenience with little to no cooking or cleanup necessary.

Comfort Food Choices are Almost Always Subconsciously Formed through:

Past Associations: They evoke feelings of safely, love, homecoming, appreciation, empowerment, fun, vacation, etc.
Personal Identification: Connecting with how one defines himself/herself – “sweet and petite,” “warm and nourishing,” etc.

Personality and Food Preferences are Connected

Certain personalities are drawn to certain types of food. This is illustrated by experienced waitresses in diners being able to predict with surprising accuracy what a stranger will order.

Soup Personalities: 

Chicken Noodle – preferred by “homebody” types who tend to be loyal, relaxed and stay-at-home types who enjoy solitary hobbies.
Chili Beef – preferred by “life of the party” types –  competitive, social animals who are likely to enjoy sitcoms such as “The Simpsons.”
Vegetable – preferred by “trendsetter” types – outgoing, adventurous types who tend to have culinary skills, and be big dessert lovers.
New England Clam Chowder – preferred by “witty” types – sophisticated, intellectual, and a bit sarcastic who indulge in food and exercise it off.
Tomato – preferred by “affectionate reader” types – Creative, book loving, thinking folks who are often pet owners.

Related: Ready to Slim Down with Soup?

Notes from Mindless Eating Chapter 8: The Nutritional Gate Keeper

The biggest food influencer in our life is the “nutritional gatekeeper,” the person in the home that does most of the food shopping and meal preparation. They have a huge influence on the family’s nutrition because what to eat is determined by what foods the grocery shopper brings home. 72% of food decisions of the husband/kids is controlled by the gatekeeper. If something isn’t available, people are less likely to go out and get it.

Fruit Lovers v. Vegetable Lovers

Fruit Lovers (like convenience)

Often eat dessert with dinner
Spend little time cooking
Avoid new recipes/entertaining
Enjoy the occasional candy bar

Vegetable Lovers (don’t mind cooking)

Like to try new recipes and entertain at home
Enjoy spicy foods
Think they cook nutritiously
Enjoy occasional glass of red wine with dinner

Types of Good Cooks

Giving Cooks (22%) – Friendly, well-liked, enthusiastic, specialize in “comfort foods.” Don’t tend to experiment in the kitchen, preferring to stick with tried and true favorites. They tend to make too many home-baked goodies and are therefore make the least positive impact adult eating habits.
Healthy Cooks (20%) – Optimistic, book-loving, nature enthusiasts who are likely to experiment with fish and fresh ingredients including herbs.
Innovative Cooks (19%) – Trend-setting, creative, seldom use recipes, experiment with ingredients, cuisine styles, and cooking methods.
Methodical Cooks (18%) – Weekend hobbyist cooks who rely heavily on recipes and tend to be inefficient in the kitchen, but who turn out dishes that look like the pictures in the cookbooks.
Competitive Cooks (13%) – Iron-chef types with dominant personalities who cook to impress others, perfectionists who are intense in cooking and entertaining.

Add Variety to Improve Health

Buy different foods
Try new recipes
Substitute different ingredients into your favorite recipes
Take kids to the store and let them choose a new healthy food
Visit authentic ethnic restaurants


Pregnant women who drink carrot juice in the last trimester significantly increased how much kids preferred carrot flavored cereal months later.

Kids start learning what they like and don’t like before they are 4 months old. They pick up on signals from parents or caretakers about whether a food is tasty or not.

Studies of moms preoccupied with weight issues were more likely to be erratic in their behavior during meals, sometimes urging kids to eat more, sometimes urging them to eat less, sometimes rushing feedings, and more emotionally aroused during feedings.

A child is 3 times more likely to be obese if one of the parents is obese and 65 to 75% more likely to be overweight if one of the parents is.

You can condition kids to like healthy foods by creating positive associations:

Spinach makes you strong
Carrots make you see better
Fish makes you smarter

Fat forming transformation around servings sizes happens between ages 3 and 5. 3-year-olds eat until they are no longer hungry regardless of serving size. By the time they are 5 they eat what is given to them eating more if serving is bigger.

Half Plate Rule: An easy way to make sure your meals are balanced.

50% of plate with fruits and vegetables
50% starch/protein

Become the official gatekeeper.

Be a good marketer. Foods should be neither punishment or reward.

Offer variety. More foods kids exposed to the more nutritionally well rounded kids become. new recipes. new ingredients.

Portion out snacks. If see more on counter they want more.

Questions to Consider:

What were your biggest takeaways from Chapters 7 & 8 of Mindless Eating? (I had no idea how different women and men’s comfort food choices were.)
What is your soup personality?  (I found it fascinating that our food choices are linked with our personalities. I think I’m a cross between a chicken noodle and tomato type.)
What strategies have you implemented? What have you discovered?  (I’m working to make sure half my plate is filled with fruits/vegetables at lunch/dinner.
Who’s your nutritional gatekeeper? (It’s me. I do almost all of the shopping and cooking. Fortunately I have a great husband who doesn’t mind cleaning up.)

I’ll be back next week with my notes from Chapters 9 & 10.

Have a great week!


PS: If you want some support eating better and losing weight this summer, my 28-Day Smart Start Weight Loss Challenge may be just what you’re looking for! Many of the tips and suggestions are based on what I learned by applying Dr. Wansink’s Mindless Eating concepts.

This has been a wonderful challenge. Thank you for all of the support and encouragement. I have definitely made some positive changes that I plan to continue! ~ Bronwyn

Just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for all you do to help folks like me stay motivated to live a healthier life. I am enjoying my eCookbooks and any day now will restart the 28-Day Smart Start Weight Loss Challenge. Right now I am doing the “Mindless Eating” book club. Right now my life is challenging and am putting myself on the “back burner” but I do make the time to read your emails, these are my “Me Time” indulgence. Thank you very much for all you do! Be well! ~ M.L.

The post 6 Week Mindless Eating Challenge: Week #4 Notes & Discussion Questions appeared first on Simple Nourished Living.

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