Book Recommendation #3

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s that time of year again for reflection and ambition.

Okay, so I’m not a healthy eater. I tend to make more poor choices than good with what I eat, and then I eat more than I need to. It’s an unfortunately common occurrence in American’s today, but now that I’ve acknowledged it, I’m taking action.

I recently picked up a wonderful book called Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink. This book describes the thought process behind the food choices we make (including what we eat and how much of it we eat) and teaches the reader how to set themselves up to make better decisions without having to think about it.

The psychology boiles down to habitually snacking on unhealthy things that are convenient or buying large meals that we consider are better value. Wansink’s approach differs from a typical dieting approach that requires us to give up the things that we enjoy about food; he instead dives into the dining atmosphere that compells us to eat more.

Have you ever sat through a movie at a theater and, without realizing it, eaten almost an entire large bucket of popcorn? When you’re eating with friends at a restraunt, do you ever keep eating more and more, simply because everyone else is still eating? Despite the fullness of your stomach, it is easy to continue eating simply because the signs around you are sending your brain signals of hunger. This is just a small portion of the topics Wansink discusses in the course of his book.

Now, to promote my own healthier eating lifestyle, I’m taking the month of January to slowly settle into a new habit. I’ve chosen three things to help me do this:

  1. No eating after 10 pm.
  2. No eating at my desk or in my car
  3. Be the last person at a meal to start eating

These are three things that I have found are very common in my routine, but don’t help me with the outcome of what I eat, and following each will promote healthier eating subconciously.

The first point is to avoid late night snacking that fills me with empty calories. Studies have shown that our brains are more easily persuaded at night (which is why those stupid infomercials are suddenly so amazing at 1 AM), and hunger is a persuadable feeling that comes often.

The second point places focus on watching the things I eat. I spend a lot of time in my car or at my desk, and by trying to multitask with food, it’s easy to overlook how much is put in my mouth. Worse, Wansink describes that, in this form of mindless eating, our brainĀ relies of some sort of external signal to determine when to stop. As long as there is food in front of you while you’re watching a movie, it is almost impossible to stop eating until movie is over or your stomach is beyond capacity.

The last point is a preventative step to keep me from eating longer than I need. When I’m at a restraunt with my family or friends, it’s easy for me to rush through a meal and then pick at extra food while I wait for others to finish. Watching people eat feels weird to me when I’m not eating, so I tend to pick at more food than I need to avoid this. By starting my meals last, I will eat less because the finished people around me will signal that the meal is over, even without my thinking about it.

Of course, I’ve tried forming habits before that simply didn’t stick, so this time I’m trying something new. I’ve placed a sheet of paper next to my bed with these three bullets and the numbers 1-31 for each day in the month of January in a spreadsheet. Every night before I go to bed, I put an X for each thing I missed for the day. So far, I haven’t had a day with all three X’s missing, but the daily reminder is powerful. Over time, I believe this will reduce my unecessary food intake by making these decisions automatic, and then I can move on to improving something else.

Quick update about the intellegent ground vehicle project: the mechanical team has finished fabrication of our new robot, shown here.

CSUN's project for the upcoming 2011 IGV competition

Everything looks great, and we’re on schedule to get all the wiring taken care of so we can begin testing. Everyone involved is very excited, and many of the students that graduated this semester will be poking their head in to make sure everything’s working well. We are looking forward to the competition in July, and hope to do well.

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~ by MichaelStaudenmeir on January 4, 2011.

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