Studies have shown that our surroundings have a profound impact on our weight. For example, how many times can you pass by a candy jar before you grab a handful? For me, just seeing candy over and over makes me want to eat it—even if I’m not craving candy to begin with.
Likewise, if cereal or snacks are stored on the counter, we must look at them several times daily. Each time we see them, we force our brains to make a decision about whether we want to eat them.
You can have all the willpower and motivation in the world, but those only take you so far. The reality is that we all have bad days, get overwhelmed, tire of decisions, and run short on motivation at some point.
But with a little planning, those things aren’t a deal breaker. If you anticipate that you’re only human and that you’re bound to occasionally seek comfort, convenience or distraction, you can set yourself up for success.
Environment is powerful. Try to keep foods you overeat, or mindlessly eat, in a cabinet. Or if they’re big triggers, don’t bring them home. You can still go out and enjoy a single serving. Make healthy choices easier by only keeping fruit on the counter, and keeping fresh cut veggies at eye level in the fridge.
Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with candy, baked goods, cereal or snacks. These can absolutely be enjoyed in moderation. This post is more about working with our natural tendencies so we can short-circuit behaviors that aren’t in line with our goals.
If this all sounds far-fetched, I understand. I was on the fence about it initially too. What opened my eyes, however, was thinking about how eerily effective product marketing is. We humans aren’t always as smart as we think we are, and we’re highly susceptible to suggestion.
If you’re interested in learning more about the psychology of eating, the following books are great resources. They helped shape my view of food from a behavioral standpoint, which is a big part of what inspired this topic. Not to mention, they helped me realize that maybe I’m not so weird around food—maybe I’m just human.
The Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts that Make Us Overeat, by Stephan J. Guyenet, Ph.D.
Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, by Brian Wansink, Ph.D.