Book Review: Slim By Design – Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life

Have yoslimbydesigncoveru ever wished for a magic health fairy to come and wave her wand and just make it easier for you to eat better and loose a few pounds? Well if there ever were such a wonderful fairy she would probably be using this book as her manual. In his book Slim By Design: Mindless Eating Solutions, Brian Wansink, Ph.D. not only dives into the fascinating world of human behavior he also gives us TONS of practical advice for how to tweak our environment to help us eat better – and it’s all based on years of scientific research he has conducted as the director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab.

As a health coach I don’t like to focus too terribly much on weight loss as a primary goal. I think it’s more important to think about WHY you want to loose weight – more energy, longer life to spend with loved ones, better quality of life, increased self-esteem, etc. But the truth is the majority of people would really like to drop a few pounds (one of Wansink’s studies of more than 1,500 women found that four out of five would be happy losing an average of about 16 pounds).

If loosing weight is such a common thing that so many people want why is it so hard? When most of us decide we would like to loose a few pounds we might start a new diet or a new exercise regime (a logical place to start right?) but we are relying heavily on our willpower to keep us honest and working at it.  That is a lot to ask of our willpower day after day after day and as many of us have experienced when times get busy or stressful our well intentioned plans can fall to the wayside.

In Slim By Design: Mindless Eating Solutions, Wansink helps you set up your environment in a way that makes it so that you don’t have to rely on your willpower at all. He gives you ways to basically trick yourself into eating better. Some of the tips are ones you may have heard of before – eat from smaller plates, place healthy snacks at eye level – but some are ones that you probably would have no idea unless you read his research.  For example did you know you are 3 times more likely to eat the first thing you see in the cupboard than the fifth one? So it stands to reason that simply by rearranging what’s in your pantry you can “help” yourself make better food choices.

I thought I’d try an experiment with my own household from the book just to see what would happen. I always have a bowl of fruit in the corner of the kitchen counter. Usually it’s filled with apples. Wansink recommends having 2 or more fruit choices in the bowl and placing it in a place that is within 2 feet of the main passage through the kitchen. So I added two more kinds of fruit and moved the bowl to the center of our kitchen island and was blown away. My kiddos are generally good fruit eaters when I offer it to them, but for the first time they started asking for it on their own (vs. asking for cheese and crackers or cereal). So cool to see such instant results from such an easy change to make!

If you are a data nerd like me and fascinated by human behavior you are going to love this book. Wansink’s style is highly entertaining and loaded with hilarious anecdotes while at the same time providing lots of very accessible ways to shift our environment to help us live a healthier life.

P.S. If this stuff interests you and you live in the greater Bellingham, WA area check out my Pantry Makeovers on my Work With Me page. We cover a lot of this kind of material in my fun and fast-paced workshops done in your home.

Why wait until January? Make Your New Years Resolutions Now!

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Think back to last January. Were you feeling inspired to tackle your health goals head on? Maybe you signed up for a gym membership, committed to eating healthier or were determined to do more active things with your family? Are you one of the 8% of people who made new years resolutions and kept them? If so I applaud you!

For many of us the New Year marks a time when we stop and think about what it is that we really want to change in our lives. What a great tradition! I am a big fan. However as the year goes on and our lives get busy it is so easy to push those resolutions aside as the craziness of everyday life catches up with us. It’s too bad our culture doesn’t have a tradition of making resolutions quarterly (or weekly…or daily).

This year think about how amazing would it be to tell your January self that you know you can stick to your health goals because you’ve already been doing it. You have already made it through the start of the school year and the busy holiday season and you’ve come through feeling strong and healthy!

I propose starting now. Today. Take a few minutes out of your day to think about what your resolutions might be in January – or remembering back to what they were last January – and figure out a way to make them start happening right now. Then (note: this is important) write them down and post them in a place you will see them every day like the bathroom mirror or front of the fridge. Particularly strong resolutions will have measurable goals, focus on the positive, and will not include just the what but also the why. For example:

  • I will hit the gym 3 times/week because I want to have more energy to play with my kids after work
  • I will cook healthy foods for my family at least 4 nights a week because I know healthy fuel means stronger bodies and brighter brains
  • I will make building close friendships AND exercise a priority by setting up a weekly walking date with friends because both are important to me

I know from experience a lot of us start off the new year full of hope for our healthy resolutions, but also a little exasperated with where we are starting. We’ve indulged in a few too many piece of pumpkin pie or snuggled up indoors through the rainy season. So feeling a little grumpy we drag ourselves to the gym – (you’ve probably heard the news. Gym memberships see a spike in January and then level off to normal levels by March).

It’s much harder to be excited about and stick with resolutions when we are approaching them from a place of post holiday frustration than when we come at them strong and confident in our ability to succeed. If your New Years resolutions are something you want to carry throughout your whole year and really incorporate into your life than there is no better time to start than now!

Be happy, be healthy, be well.