Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mindless Eating Pitfall #1: If it's there, you'll eat it!

Mindless Eating Pitfall #1:
  • If it's there, you'll eat it.  And you know that during this time of year, the food will be there...and then some!  When foods are located in convenient locations, people tend to eat more.  Think about how easily accessible food can be during the holidays.  It's going to be at home, work, school, church, and our family's and friend's places.  Food will be everywhere.  In fact, some research suggests that the simple sight or smell of food can provoke our consumption of that food, whether an individual is actually hungry or not. One trial examined the affect of access on consumption by placing opaque or clear containers filled with 30 Hershey's kisses on office workers' desks or on a shelf 6 feet away from their desks.  Investigators found that the workers consumed a daily average of 3 kisses when placed in a clear bowls on their desk and an average of almost 8 kisses when placed in an opaque container 6 feet away from their desk, which equates to about 125 more calories at ~25 calories a pop.  I'm sure your mind could drum up at least one occasion in which you recall eating a food simply because it was there, right?
Strategies to Manage
  • Out of sight, out of mind.  Keep tempting foods out of sight or in an inconvenient location (i.e., covered with a cloth or foil, top/back of the pantry, back of the fridge or freezer, in the trunk of the car).  I've even had clients who not only threw away such foods, but they also doused them in salt to drastically reduce the food's appeal. Better yet, consider not buying or making tempting foods. 
  • Keep your distance.  One of my colleagues has a saying, "Stay away from the buffet!"  One study actually suggested that heavier restaurant patrons sit facing the buffet vs with their side or back to the buffet.  Leave serving bowls and platters off the dining table, and you might think twice about that second helping.   
  • Occupy yourself.  When mingling at a party, carry something in each hand (i.e., a glass of water and napkin).  Without a free hand, you are less likely to mindlessly nibble.  Or hold something in your dominant hand. For example, if you're a righty, hold a drink in your right hand. This way you're less inclined to reach for something because it'll feel unnatural or uneasy to eat with your less dominant hand.  When cooking or baking, keeping your mouth busy with chewing gum or a hard candy.
  • Fill 'er up.  Remember, if it's there, you'll eat it.  If you leave fresh vegetables and fruits on the kitchen counter, dining table, pre-prepped in the front of the fridge, or in other plain sight locations, you'll be more likely to eat them.  Aim for at least 5 cups of vegetables and fruits daily!
  • Stay ahead of your hunger.  Saving up calories for the special event leads to an incredibly ferocious appetite, and this will not help you stay on track with your weight and health management goals.  Before heading off to an event, satisfy your hunger with a pre-event meal or snack.  Consider a source of fiber, a quality source of protein, and/or a quality source of carbohydrate.  Examples, you say?  Fresh vegetables or fruit alone or with low-fat cheese or nut butter, low-fat milk or string cheese, low-fat yogurt with fruit or whole grain cereal, whole grain pita bread with hummus.  Filling up on these options leaves a lot less room for other calorically dense, and sometimes less nutritious, holiday staples.
  • Limit or avoid the alcohol.  Do I really need to explain it? I will add that it can also lead to lower blood sugar levels, which can stimulate hunger.


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