If you’re interested in the psychology of eating, how companies market to consumers to eat more or less, portion sizes and control, and what can influence our eating decisions, this is the book for you. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, Ph.D. (published in 2006) explores these topics and more. The most important thing to take note of about this book, however, is that it is not a diet book, telling you how to lose weight and keep it off. Rather, it is “about reengineering your food life so that it is enjoyable and mindful.”
As it is stated in the introduction,
The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.
(Interestingly, and especially of note for those who live on a restricted diet because of food allergies, intolerances, or diseases, it is noted that the word “diet” comes from the Latin word, dieta, meaning “a way of life”. Indeed for many, living with food allergies et al and becoming creative within those boundaries no longer becomes a diet but a lifestyle. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “diet” in a restrictive sense has only been used since the fourteenth century. I studied Latin, so my passions for language and food temporarily collided.)
Some of the topics were baffling to me, such as how changing the colour of a food can change people’s perception – and even trick them into thinking that they’re tasting something else! This was examplified with a story about a World War II Navy cook (in this book, named Billy) who once accidentally ordered twice the amount of lemon Jell-O but no cherry Jell-O. In a stroke of genius, he made the lemon Jell-O as usual but added red food colouring. Although it was still lemon flavoured, it looked like cherry Jell-O. The sailors, when they tried it, didn’t know the difference – some even complimented him on having found cherry Jell-O. This is explained as having worked because the sailors expected it was cherry and tasted it as such.