Karen's Blogs

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External Cues and Overeating

Although my primary focus is to help disregulated eaters connect to internal appetite cues, that’s hard to do without recognizing how external cues impact food consumption. Some tips from a NUTRITION ACTION HEALTHLETTER (5/11) article entitled “Under the influence: how external cues make us overeat” by Brian Winsink, Ph.D.

Before detailing Winsink’s advice, please note that the word “make” in the title of the article is nonsense. Nothing makes us overeat; rather cues act as triggers and food seducers. So, don’t give up your free will. Nothing makes you overeat but you! Moreover, some of Winsink’s advice is the antithesis of what I teach about eating “normally,” so you’ll have to figure out how to—or even whether to—follow his suggestions. If they aid “normal” eating, use them. If not, ignore them.
Rather than keep food within reach (say, on your desk at work or next to you while you’re watching TV) move it to where you’ll have to get up and walk to eat it.
Use a smaller plate/bowl/container rather than a larger one, so you have an appearance of more food to consume.
Ignore fancy or exotic names of food items which are used to lure you into buying or eating them (eg, Succulent Tuscany Primavera is simply Italian Pasta).
If you continue to sit at the table after eating, remove the food or ask for it to be taken away to avoid visual cues to eat. This action really helps!
Keep your own pace while eating by staying connected to your appetite. Because we tend to speed up when we eat with fast eaters, tune out people who eat more quickly than you do. Rather, get in sync with the slowest eater at the table.
At a buffet, keep your eyes on your own plate. Research says that if the person in line in front of us heaps food on their plate, we are more likely to do so.
Don’t think that you can eat more of foods just because they’re marked “healthy.” Always use fullness/satisfaction signals to determine how much to eat.
Avoid falling into the trap of feeling so “virtuous” after you’ve exercised that you need a “reward”—of food. Food is for fuel and sensory pleasure. It is not reward material.
Don’t fall into the “intelligence trap” and think your brain (and knowing what you “should” do) will deter you from eating mindlessly. That’s plain old rationalizing.

Remember that this list may seem to fly in the face of “normal” eating guidelines. But who says that “normal” eaters don’t use some of them to eat according to appetite? What’s important is whatever works for you!

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Book Review: Losing It In France

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