I fear of dying from hunger. It’s a very unreasonable fear because what are my chances of dying from hunger? Yet, this is what I must fear because each time my dinner arrives I eyeball it cautiously wondering whether it is enough. All sorts of food sharing events are a particular torture because I'm a slow eater, so the food is usually gone when I'm barely starting to eat. So I stuff my face, I barely chew; because I worry that everybody will walk away full and satisfied and I will be left hungry.
There is no plausible explanation for this. Yes, I did grow up in communism, but it was Poland, not North Korea, I never had to go to bed without dinner. I didn't have to fight a litter of brothers and sisters at the table, in fact, I only have a younger sister whose favourite food was cauliflower.
Oh, I do truly live in the here and now. I think every meal I eat is at the same time my first and my last one. I pay for it with those extra pounds I so desperately try to run off, jogging at 6am by the canals. I don't turn heads quite the way I used and it saddens me. But it doesn't sadden me nowhere near as much as the thought that I have to eat everything today because there will be no food tomorrow.
Brian Wansink in ‘Mindless Eating’ talks about people like me but also people like you, the normal kind. The kind who thinks they are in control of what and how much they eat it. But you lot, you’re no better than me. If someone gives you free five day old stale popcorn with a movie ticket you will eat that. You will eat that and the box size will be the only criteria of how much food you need. Give you a small plate – that’s your portion. Give you a bigger one – that’s your portion too. Give you your food in a bucket, well, that’s how much you’ll eat. We need to clean our plate. Let's not throw away food! It's a sin. And what about those starving children in Africa? Let's eat more because they can't.
Wansink maintains we make about 200 food-related decisions a day. He is a scientist with good methodology, so let’s believe him. This is a lot of decisions. Who has the time to make 200 right decisions a day? And he proves beyond doubt that even the people who think they know, or even know they know, still don’t know or fully control how much they eat. You think you’re so smart, but some Sade from the speakers in a restaurant will make you order a dessert.
Gosh, are you hungry? You weren't even hungry before but I started talking about food and now you want to eat. You want a brownie and spaghetti, and sushi, pumpkin soup and a burger. I will show you my food and then I will close the door and let the thought of that food slowly burn in your brain. When you finally break and come begging me for that food you will eat almost twice as much as you would have if I weren't such a tease and just gave it to when I first showed you.
If it says low fat it means you can eat all you want. If it says something vaguely healthy on the packaging, again you can eat as much as you want of it and also believe it will cure cancer. That’s your brain on food.
There are so many fantastic facts and experiments in this book, some you can even try at home. Read it so you can learn what a fool you are. Me, I'm fine. As long as I can somehow convince myself there will still be food tomorrow.