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How surroundings affect diet

Monday, May 28, 2012

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The way people use their senses while eating can includence how we eat and how much we consume, according to Dr. John Gunstad, associate professor of psychology at Kent State University.

"Things like music, bright lights, color and food texture have a strong influence on our eating habits," Gunstad explains. "If we don't pay attention to our surroundings, it can result in poor food choices. The key is to be aware of how these forces subtly influence our eating habits."

Sound: Loud, fast music, often played at restaurants, encouraging people to eat and live more quickly. Unfortunately, eating fast can also lead to overeating.

Most people eat until their brain signals a full feeling, but there is a five to ten minute lag between when our stomachs are full and when our brain recognizes that fact.

Eating more slowly allows the brain to realize it is time to stop eating before the person has overeaten. Rather than simply avoiding music all together, look for settings or create your own environment that plays slow, soft music.

A relaxing tempo can lead to more conductive eating habits.

Sight: Similar to loud music, bright lights encourage people to increase the rate of all behaviors. Eating faster is a natural byproduct of bright lights. When possible, plan your meals in a setting that does not include bright, harsh lighting; the impulse to eat fast will be reduced.

Color can also affect the way we eat: Red and yellow tend to make people feel hungrier, even when they are not, while blue can help suppress appetite.

Choosing colored plates that contrast sharply with the color of food makes it easier to pay attention to portion size.

Beware of optical illusions: We often eat with our eyes, which means we frequently base how full we are on what we think we ate rather than how many calories we actually consumed.

A popular method for portion control is to gradually switch to smaller plates.

Touch: The texture of food can provide guidance for more healthful choices. Rough or fibrous foods can promote weight loss because they create feelings of satiety with less calories.

Taste/Smell: The key is not to allow taste or smell dictate whether we are hungry or full. Stop and ask yourself, "Am I actually hungry? Or is it actually my positive reaction to a tasty smell or delicious bite of food encouraging me to keep eating?"