Do you ever wonder how your environment influences your eating?
We often overlook how much our environment can influence how much we eat! For those of you who are working to reduce your calorie intake, can you relate to any of these examples? ACCESSIBILITY: You're out to dinner and out comes the complimentary bread rolls or chips & salsa. You're at a friend’s house for dinner and she has put out cheese, crackers, chips, dips – these delectable delights stay on the table post-dinner too. Food that is convenient, visible, and in close, mouth-watering proximity can spur on eating whether you're hungry or not!
Solution? Keep foods (particularly trigger foods) out of sight and/or inconvenient to get to. Tell the waiter to hold the chips & salsa! Wrap up leftovers and put them away shortly after eating – Remember out of sight, out of mind! ATMOSPHERE: Picture this...you are in a cozy, romantic lounge, with the fireplace crackling, you're with your person, the lighting is low, and smells of garlic & parmesan are wafting. The comfortable atmosphere you are in promotes the want of prolonging what you are feeling...which means you will likely spend more time eating & drinking.
Solution? Enjoy the atmosphere but take away the accessibility and visual cues to the food. SOCIAL EVENTS: This relates to both of the above. We do know eating is social, and we tend to eat more when socializing. We become distracted by conversation or people watching and not realize how much we are eating; we may see other people have seconds or bigger portions and then give ourselves permission to do the same. Typically the longer the duration of the meal the more we consume.
Solution? Practice mindfulness in social situations. Another great tip from 'Understanding Nutrition' is to "pace yourself with the person who seems to be eating the least and slowest."
DISTRACTIONS: Eating in front of a TV, scrolling the internet, or even being engrossed in your favourite book can affect your ability to perceive and control how much you are consuming. We tend to eat and drink more and feel less full after eating a meal while distracted.
Solution? Practice mindful eating. Pay attention to what you are eating – the tastes, textures, and duration of eating. If you can’t remove the distraction ensure you are practicing portion control.
POTLUCKS & BUFFETS: Who doesn’t love a good potluck or brunch buffet? Most of us do, but the problem is too much variety encourages us to sample many different items which leads to consuming much more than we normally would at one sitting.
Solution? Follow the practices discussed with all of the above environmental influences!
The bottom line is our environment can have a huge effect on our (over)eating habits. Working on being mindful and changing any of these environmental influences can help moderate how much you eat to stay on track with your goals!
References: Whitney, E. N., & Rolfes, S. R. (2013). Understanding nutrition. Australia: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.