Most us are completely (and happily?) oblivious to many of the factors that influence our decision to eat. Even when we think we are in control of our choices, are we? The following are some of the other factors that can influence our food intake.
1) The larger the serving, the more we will eat.
2) We stop eating when our plate is empty, not because we are full. We eat what looks like the ‘right’ amount. Smaller plates, tall, narrow glasses all trick the brain to thinking we have had more.
3) The more variety we have on our plate, the more we eat. Our taste buds get ‘tired’ of one flavour, (sensory specific satiety) so the pleasure decreases. However if we keep rotating our mouthfuls from a variety of foods on the plate, our taste buds keep getting fresh flavours, so the pleasure remains greater and we eat more. Increasing the variety of food increases how much we eat.
4) If the food is in easy reach you will eat more. Keep tempting foods out of sight, on the top shelf of the pantry, and serve your plate in the kitchen and carry it through to the dining table- (when the food is on the dining table people eat more).
5) Most people are on the ‘see food’ diet. If we see food (pantry, supermarket, TV, magazines etc) our brains will think about it, leading us to experience head hunger. Eventually our brains will justify why it is OK to eat it.
6) Simply thinking about a food can make you ‘hungry (head). And interestingly, the more you think about a food the more of it you will eat. (Note - head hunger and physical hunger can feel very similar, so not eating immediately and seeing what happens will help you to learn which is which).
7) We like bargains, so we will buy in bulk because it is cheaper. But then because it in the house, we think about it, see it, and eventually eat it.
8) Anything that takes our focus off the food (including conversation at the table, working at our desk, or having the TV on) makes us more likely to overeat without knowing it. Revisit that mindful eating.
9) While it is nice to enjoy a relaxing candle lit dinner, with soft music, and good friends, remember that the research shows that these factors all have the potential to lead us to eat more, or make different choices.
10) Smell is a trigger to us believing we are hungry. As the saying goes:- The Frenchsay that you taste first with your eyes, but it’s your nose that gets your stomach revved up. It is no accident that many food shops allow their pleasant odours to waft through the store to entice customers.
11) The weather influences our desire for food. The food companies know this and advertise accordingly.
In winter you don’t need warm stodgy comfort food. You need an extra woolly jumper. Be aware of child hood experiences as these foods were often associated with love and warmth and feeling cosy and safe.
12) Foods with fancy names will entice us to buy and try. And then (surprise, surprise), people rate the item with the fancier name as yummier that exactly the same food with a boring name. And then, because they perceive it as yummier. . .they eat more. Watch out for Geographic Label (Pure artisian spring water), Nostalgic Labels (Grandma’s apple pie), Sensory Labels (Succulent, melt in your mouth . . .), Brand Labels (Brand name vs Home Brand names).
Look at your own life and try and identify those factors that contribute to you eating more.