NOTeD’s Dr. Tom Rifai Interviews Scientist and Mindless Eating Author, Dr. Brian Wansink

Mindless Eating author Dr. Brian Wansink talks with Dr. Tom Rifai about the little things we can do to avoid overeating and other habits that lead to weight gain and unhealthy lifestyle.
Dr. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, on left of Zoom screen, and Dr. Tom Rifai, editor of NOTeD, on right.

In this episode of NOTeD, we touch base with one of my professional heroes, Dr. Brian Wansink. Dr. Wansink is the former Executive Director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and held the John S. Dyson Endowed Chair in the Applied Economics and Management Department at Cornell University, where he directed the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

He is author of two widely acclaimed books, Mindless Eating and Slim by Design, directed towards individuals and organizations, respectively. Mindless Eating has been atop my recommended reading list for patients and coaching clients since it was released.

Mindless Eating and Optimal Wellness: A Background

As some of you know, I have developed a comprehensive behavior change system for transformational lifestyle modification based on 5 Keys to Optimal Wellness. While the main theme of the program’s Nutrition key is Plant Predominant Flexitarian, let’s keep in mind that while we are what we eat, we also (often mindlessly) eat what surrounds us.

This concept also engages two of the five other keys: Mind Matters and Environments. You see, we can only be mindful so much of the time. Otherwise, many of us mere mortals (mindfulness ninjas notwithstanding) would be mentally exhausted. In fact, there is even building concern for what is termed mindfulness overload. We are humans after all. So there is a concept within my Flexitarian 5 Keys to Optimal Wellness system that I call “strategic resting.”

Strategic resting can certainly be applied in a physical sense, for example, taking a day off from exercise after the previous day’s heavy work out. But there’s also mental (strategic) resting. One of the best ways to allow mental rest and prevent mindfulness burnout, while still achieving health goals, is to set up our food environments in a way that we can mindlessly eat healthier – both at home and in other environments such as at work, in the car (e.g. bringing a healthy snack bag with you when out on errands) or while traveling. No one has mastered better than Dr. Brian Wansink the science of methods and actionable tips to mindlessly eat healthily.

Mindless Eating and Lifestyle Change

Throughout my nearly two decades and over 20,000 hours of clinical leadership career, running intensive multidisciplinary care lifestyle change intervention programs, Dr. Wansink has been a solid influence on understanding the cues behind, as his first book is titled, “mindless eating” and (as the subtitle goes) why we eat more than we think. His work and lifestyle suggestions are as important now as ever in understanding how to optimize food environments, making it mindlessly easy to eat better and move towards our personal life goals and balance.

In this interview, we catch up with Dr. Wansink, see what drives his passion, hear some of his landmark studies, and learn what he’s doing today and what his plans are to help families in the future. We also learn a little bit about our common interest in musical proclivities (spoiler alert: he’s a big Bob Seger fan – major points from this Motor City-based doc).

Now please, set your mind at ease and enjoy this interview!