Mindless eating

Dominique Dawes
Weekend EditionFebruary 18, 2011

With so much going on before our production even began (including wild winter weather), I'm not sure where to begin with this shoot!

The initial plan was to head straight to Ithaca, NY, to speak to Dr. Brian Wansink about his research relating to the psychology of how and why we eat. (We hoped to gather enough tips before making it back for dinner!). However, winter travel turned out to be especially dicey on the East Coast, and our first attempt to get to Ithaca during a blizzard failed. All flights were cancelled so the shoot had to be postponed a week and a half.  To no surprise, another East Coast snowstorm rolled in. The result: four of my flights were cancelled in a matter of 24 hours. The idea of camping out at the airport was fun when I was a child, but not so much in my adult years. Thankfully, my producer made the best out of the situation, sending me funny videos of him driving in the snow to pick me up from Binghamton, NY. But those videos came after my flights to Ithaca and Syracuse were cancelled.  In the end, I made it to Ithaca safely and it was time for us to get to work.  Oddly enough I had no idea what work I had just signed up for.

Unlike my other shoots, my producer instructed me not to prepare for this one, and for good reason.  I wasn't given any information on the professor I was about to interview, or his research. I understood why as soon as I stepped into Dr. Wansink's food lab at Cornell. Turns out, I was signed up to be the lab rat for the day! I quickly learned that Dr. Wansink had a wealth of knowledge to offer. In his book, "Mindless Eating", Dr. Wansink explores the psychology behind how we eat. Statistics show that one in three children between the ages of 2-19 is overweight or obese and cardiovascular disease in the number one killer among women. With the growing body of research pointing to unhealthy eating habits, I was even more curious to find out what part of our environments make us so unhealthy.

At the Food and Brand Lab, Dr. Wansink put me through a series of tests to see if my environment affected how I ate.  Later that evening in his kitchen, he introduced me to the concept of a "mindless makeover."  The tips were more than helpful. I discovered how eating from smaller plates and using smaller serving spoons can lessen my portion size.  Another great tip: put healthier food options within sight in the refrigerator and the pantry, while pushing back all the processed food.

Now that the adventure is over, I must admit that all those travel headaches to this small town of Ithaca, NY, was well worth it. The concept of "mindless eating," is taking shape in my own kitchen. The next time I eat in my own kitchen, I'll be sure to turn my brain off and allow my environment to work for me. And since the majority of us are not aware of how our environments affect how we eat, wouldn't it really work to our advantage to become more mindful eaters?