When Easter eggs are too easy to find!
Easter is less than one week away; this means that we will continue to be subject to the visual temptation of pastel-coloured chocolates until then. For some, Easter candy is a happy sight. However, for many, the sight of over-abundant candy only serves to sabotage our most noble “healthy eating intentions.” The real question is: What can we do about it? Inevitably, seasonal aisles will fill up with treats and our workplaces will contain cakes and other sweets to celebrate birthdays or work anniversaries. It is safe to say that we can’t run away from food temptations because they will find us. Therefore, it is important to first accept that our society and food environment will bombard us with cues to eat. The trick is in knowing how to handle these visual cues so that you can make your wisest food choice.
If you catch yourself saying, “If I see it, I will eat it” or “I have no willpower when it comes to X”, you are not alone. In fact, research shows that the more readily available food is, the more we tend to indulge. This is because sight is one of the most powerful influences on our food choice. Quite simply, if we see it, we are very likely to eat it.
Three Ways to Take Control of your Food Environment:
OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND:
First, let’s accept the fact that sight increases consumption. With this in mind, scan your kitchen and work environment to see what foods you find in clear view. If you see a candy dish or a cookie jar, this is serving as a persistent reminder to eat. Even if you are sometimes able to resist, this sight still forces you to make a food decision (to eat or not to eat) and reminds you of the option available for later consumption. Thus, if you don’t want to eat these foods, don’t keep them in clear view.
Conversely, you can use these same principles to promote the consumption of healthy foods! Start by swapping out your treats for a bowl with two or three different types of fruit. Place this bowl in a convenient spot, such as by the front door, so family members have a reminder to grab a healthy snack.
Swap out your treats for a bowl with 2 or 3 different types of fruit. Click To Tweet
I love helping my clients pro-actively plan healthy (and convenient) meals and snacks in order to decrease their desire for less healthy temptations. I also recommend avoiding grocery shopping when hungry. With a list in hand and a satisfied stomach, you will be more likely to confidently pass by the candy aisle. You can also try chewing mint-flavoured gum while grocery shopping, as suggested by researcher Brian Wansink. He found that people who did so bought seven per cent less junk food!
Those who chewed mint gum, bought 7% less junk food according to researcher Brian Wansink Click To Tweet
The vast majority of the time, the amount you portion yourself (for meal or snack) is the amount you will consume. After all, we are proud members of the “clean plate club” and we will eat what we see in front of us. Therefore, when it comes to seasonal treats or workplace temptations, if you want to treat yourself, remember to first portion yourself what you think is a reasonable amount to eat. Then, very importantly, leave the area to remove visual cues and enjoy the treat without distraction. Serve yourself on a small plate, since a larger plate will encourage you to fill up with more treats. On a different note, feel free to encourage co-workers to bring in healthy options too, such as a sliced fruit platter with yogurt dip. As we know, if they see these healthy options, they are likely to eat them!
You do not have to be a victim of your food environment. Understand the powerful influence of sight on your food choice and your food intake. Accept that foods (healthy or otherwise) that are out of sight are also out of mind. Swap your sweet treats for healthy alternatives, avoid hunger pangs and be sure to pre-portion foods you would like to indulge in. By changing your environment, you will begin to see how your food choices do not have to come down to willpower.