Book review: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink.
This well-written book might help a few people lose a significant amount of weight, and many to lose a tiny bit.
Some of his advice seems to demand as much willpower for me as a typical diet (e.g. eat slowly), but he gives many small suggestions and advises us to pick and choose the most appropriate ones. There’s enough variety and novelty among his suggestions that most people are likely to find at least one feasible method to lose a few pounds.
A large fraction of his suggestions require none of the willpower that a typical diet requires, but will be rejected by most people because their ego will cause them to insist that only people less rational than them are making the kind of mistakes that the book’s suggestions will fix.
Most of the book’s claims seem to be backed up by careful research. But I couldn’t find any research to back up the claim that approaches which cause people to eat 100 calories per day less for days will cause people to lose 10 pounds in ten months. He presents evidence that such a diet doesn’t need to make people feel deprived over the short time periods they’ve been studied. But there’s been speculation among critics of diet books that our bodies have a natural “set point” weight, and diets which work for a while have no long-term effect because lower body weights cause increased desire to return to the set point. This book offers only weak anecdotal evidence against that possibility.
But even if it fails as a diet book, it may help you understand how the taste of your food is affected by factors other than the food itself.
I had been skeptical of reports that low sodium diets produce health benefits (suspecting they were fighting the symptoms of high blood pressure rather than an underlying cause), but a new study has provided strong enough evidence to change my diet.
It’s time to switch from regular to low sodium soy sauce, and I’m going to reduce my seafood consumption (since I’ve started taking Omega-3 fish oil capsules and am eating more walnuts, my reasons for eating seafood have diminished).
Jeff Hummel recently gave an interesting talk on the subject of how the law should treat a contract that involves one person becoming enslaved to another. The title made the talk sound like a quaint subject of little importance to present day politics, and I attended because Hummel has a reputation for being interesting, not due to the title of the talk. But his arguments were designed to apply not just to the status that was outlawed by the 13th amendment, but also to military service (not just the draft, but any type where the soldier can’t quit at will) and marriage.
Hummel argues that instead of asking whether slavery ought to be illegal, we should ask what a legal system ought to do when presented with a dispute between two people over enforcement of a contract requiring slavery.
Some simplistic notions of contracts assume that valid contracts should always be honored and enforced at all costs, but the term efficient breach describes exceptions to that rule (if you’re unfamiliar with this subject, I recommend David Friedman’s book Law’s Order as valuable background to this post).
In the distant past, people who failed to fulfill contracts and had insufficient assets to compensate were often put in debtors prisons. That was generally abolished around the time that traditional slavery was abolished, and replaced with a more forgiving bankruptcy procedure. Hummel suggests that this wasn’t a random coincidence, and that a slave breaching his promise to his master ought to be treated like most other breaches of contracts. If bankruptcy is the appropriate worst case result of a breach of contract, then the same reasoning ought to imply that bankruptcy is the worst result a legal system should impose on a person who reneges on a promise to be a slave.
Hummel noted that the change from debtors prisons to bankruptcy happened around the time that the industrial revolution took off, and suggested that we should wonder whether the timing implies that we became wealthy enough that we could afford to abolish debtors prisons, and/or whether the change helped to cause the industrial revolution. Neither he nor I have a good argument for or against those possibilities.
If this rule were applied to military service, unpopular wars would become harder to fight, as many more soldiers would quit the military. As far as I can tell, peer pressure kept soldiers fighting in any war I think they ought to have fought, so I think this would be a clear improvement.
The talk ended with some disagreement between Hummel and some audience members about what should happen if people want to have a legal system that provides harsher penalties for breach of contract (assume for simplicity that they’re forming a new country in order to do this). Hummel disapproved of this, but it wasn’t clear whether he was doing more than just predicting nobody would want this. I think he should have once again rephrased the question in terms of what existing legal systems should do about such a new legal system. Military/police action to stop the new legal system seems excessive. Social pressure for it to change seems desirable. It was unclear whether anyone there had an opinion about intermediate responses such as economic boycotts, or whether the apparent disagreement was just posturing.
Molecular nanotechnology is likely to be heavily regulated when it first reaches the stage where it can make a wide variety of products without requiring unusual expertise and laboratories. The main justification for the regulation will be the risk of dangerous products (e.g. weapons). That justification will provide a cover for people who get money from existing manufacturing techniques to use the regulation to prevent typical manufacturing from becoming as cheap as software.
One way to minimize the harm of this special-interest would be to create an industry now that will have incentives to lobby in favor of making most benefits of cheap manufacturing available to the public. I have in mind a variation on a company like Kinko’s that uses ideas from the book Fab and the rapid prototyping industry to provide general purpose 3-D copying and printing services in stores that could be as widespread as photocopying/printing stores. It would then be a modest, natural, and not overly scary step for these stores to start using molecular assemblers to perform services similar to what they’re already doing.
The custom fabrication services of TAP Plastics sound like they might be a small step in this direction.
One example of a potentially lucrative service that such a store could provide in the not-too-distant future would be cheap custom-fit footwear. Trying to fit a nonstandard foot into one of a small number of standard shoes/boots that a store stocks can be time consuming and doesn’t always produce satisfying results. Why not replace that process with one that does a 3-D scan of each foot and prints out footwear that fits that specific shape (or at least a liner that customizes the inside of a standard shoe/boot)? Once that process is done for a large volume of footwear, the costs should drop below that of existing footwear, due to reduced inventory costs and reduced time for salespeople to search the inventory multiple times per customer.