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Do you find yourself eating for no reason? Your environment may be causing you to eat.

Did you know that your surrounding environment can cause you to eat?

We've all joke about how the big companies market to your subconscious mind.

I am not going to talk about how big food chains influence your food choices, but if you're interested you should read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser or a the documentary based on his book Food Inc.

Anyhow, it is true that our environment can direct you to make certain choices. My personal hero Dr. Brian Wansik has done many research study on how our surrounding environment influences our food choices. In one study, Dr. Wansink has found that the French eat 1.5x less than Chicagonians. Why? Because French honors the internal cues to stop eating instead of external signals such as stop eating when the plate is empty.

Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink, Ph.D l ZEN Integrative Nutrition

What I mean by external eating is when your surrounding environment triggers you to eat when you're not feeling hungry. It can be based on outside cues including sight & smell of the food, price, size of the plate, people you're eating with, music, etc.

Have you ever found yourself buying a family size popcorn at the movie theater even you just had lunch 20 min ago? The aroma of rich buttery popcorn is really tempting.

Or do you have a membership to one of the wholesale clubs like Costco or Sams club? You know you'll get a better deal buying a large pack of Honeynut Cheerios there than at the local supermarket. Which is really helpful when you're on a tight budget, but remember, you are in control of deciding how and how much you eat.

So how will you know if your surrounding is causing you to eat MINDLESSLY:

  • Is there certain food smell you can't resist?

  • Do you routinely eat at a certain time even when you're not feeling hungry?

  • Do you eat in front of a screen (TV, phone, computer, etc)?

  • Do you eat outside frequently?

  • Do you eat while standing or in the car?

  • Are there daily tasks/chores that are followed by a treat or snack?

  • Do you reward yourself with food?

If you answered yes to two or more above questions, you may be relying too much on external cues to decide when to eat and when to stop eating.

So here are my tips to wean you off of relying too much on external eating cues.

  1. Increase distance with you and the food; keep food in the kitchen area only, dine at the dining table

  2. Eat slowly, listen to relaxing music

  3. Put the fork down in between bites or drink water in between bites

  4. Chew 20 times per bite

  5. Use smaller serving plates

  6. Store your favorite foods in a non-see through container and store on top shelves.

  7. Only buy bulk items when necessary (especially your favorite foods), if you do, immediately break them into smaller containers.

  8. At social events, Stay away from rooms/area the food is kept

  9. When eating out, choose the smallest size if available (e.g. movie theater popcorn)

  10. When eating with others, identify the slowest eater at the table and match his/her speed

  11. Don't go grocery shopping when you're hungry

Now that you're aware of how your external environment influences your food choices, try these simple mindful eating tips to become a wise eater!

ZEN Integrative Nutrition l holistic nutrition l Portland, OR

Miho Hatanaka, RDN l holistic nutrition l mindful eating l stress eating coaching


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