Believe it or not, we have to make around 200 decisions concerning food every single day.
That’s according to a book called Mindless Eating by an American food science boffin called Brian Wansink.
And food companies are constantly trying to influence our decisions with delicious smells, eye-catching packaging and clever marketing.
I don’t know about you, but I find that fascinating.
Let’s be honest, it’s Monday which means lots of you will have maybe made a decision to try and lose some weight and a more healthy version of yourself.
But, as I’m writing this, it’s afternoon which also means many of you may have already given up on that plan because something will have come your way which you just couldn’t resist.
So how do we bulletproof ourselves against those temptations?
How do we stop making the same mistakes every single week and start to make lasting progress?
How do we stop simply eating too much, eating for the sake of it and over-indulging without even realising that we’re doing it?
Here are three little game-changing tips to help with mindset, behaviour and bad habits…
1. Don’t go cold turkey straightaway. Don’t try and cut out every single thing that you enjoy in one go. The more you deprive yourself, the harder you will fall once your willpower battery runs down. If you didn’t know it, yes, your willpower has a battery life. And it is constantly being run down by events in your daily life. So instead, really look at your eating routine and pinpoint where you can make small changes which will bring you maximum dividends. How about that mid-morning coffee break where you’ll also eat three or four biscuits too out of habit? Replacing that coffee with green tea or lemon water will break that routine, reminder and reward cycle. Chances are, you’ll stop with the biscuits because they don’t go with the green tea. Depending on your brand of choice, this tweak could save you around 300 calories a day. Do that five days a week, that’s 1500 calories. Over a month that’s 3000 calories which is almost a pound. That’s more than 10 pounds in a year, just from making that small adjustment.
2. Step away from the TV when you eat. Research has shown that the more TV you watch, the more likely you are to be overweight. When you eat in front of the television, you pay very little attention to how much you are actually eating and you probably eat for too long. Both of these scenarios can cause you to over-eat.
Not only that, but eating dinner in front of the TV creates that routine and reward response which means that every time you sit down in front of the gogglebox, your subconscious is going to elbow you and ask: “Shouldn’t we be eating something now’? Sit at the table with your dinner, take time over it, chew your food properly and stop eating when you are no longer hungry instead of when you are stuffed to bursting.
3. Out of sight is out of belly! True story. When I worked in a newspaper office, over on the design desk was a tin which contained all manner of chocolate bars. Pretty much every time I went over there to brief an artist on a page layout, I’d have a look in it and, more often than not, I’d fish something sugary out. After a while, it was like my hand took on a life of its own and helped itself to something without me even willing it to do so. On the one hand, I’d be explaining how I wanted the page to look and while I was doing that, I’d be seamlessly selecting a choccie biccie on autopilot and shovelling it into my gob without breaking my stride. This all happened because that tin was in the same place in plain view every single day and there were no obstacles in my way to bring me to my senses. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have this temptation in close proximity, but if you have to be around it, keep it on the down low. Put the treats where you can’t see them, where access is not easy or somewhere you have to deliberately seek them out. At least this way, you have a chance of talking yourself out of it before you get there!
Finally, just something to be aware of…
The more people we eat with, the more likely we are to eat more than normal. If we eat with just one more person, it is possible we will eat a staggering 35 per cent more food than we would alone. And, while we would probably not have an extra portion or opt for dessert if we are alone, we are easily influenced by our company.
Sometimes, just being aware of those influences and staying “mindful” of our eating behaviour can be enough to help us moderate it.
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