In 21st Century America, we often forget just how much variety and choice there is nowadays compared to just a few generations ago. We’ve gone from block long lines at soup kitchens during the 1930s to a Starbucks on every block today. The explosion in choice and variety has led to an explosion in calories which has led to an explosion in our waistlines. Indeed, according to Brian Wansink’s research, we make an average of two hundred food related decisions each day. Should I eat this or that? Is it “healthy” enough? What’s in the fridge? Latte or mocha? Will I eat out? Which restaurant? Mexican or Chinese? What should I have for breakfast? Do you even need breakfast? And on and on it goes.
Do you honestly believe that people living in 1930s Hooverville thought about any of these things?
We are constantly thinking about food. The many choices and calories present in today’s environment have caused us to mindlessly overeat. Of course, we aren’t always feasting to the point of feeling absolutely stuffed. Often times, we eat just slightly above our caloric requirements. Eating just, if only slightly, above our requirements leads to slow and gradual weight gain. Make no mistake, those calories do add up causing a person to gain as much as thirty pounds in a single year. On the opposite side, when dieting, we don’t have to fast for days on end. Extreme dieting will make us feel hungry and weak. The good news, as Wansink argues, is that by changing a few habits, we can enter a caloric deficit without that much discomfort. This will reverse any unwanted weight gain, though at slower rate. The rate at which we either slightly over eat or under eat is the mindless margin.
In order to enter the caloric deficit side of the mindless margin, the author suggests thinking of either two or three habits that you can change right now and right them down. Every day you successfully adjust your new defined habit make a check mark for that day. Even if you don’t make all three, you may make one or two. The idea is that over the long term, more habits are changed and fewer calories are consumed. Wansink admits that the changes towards a better body composition are slow and gradual, but they are doable. Simple tasks such as brown bagging your lunch, chewing gum to relieve stress and boredom to mixing soft drinks with water or iced tea for the heavy soda drinkers can be put on the task list. The key to remember is that losing weight requires changing habits. Changing habits forces us to recognize that we have limited options even in a seemingly optionless world.