Did you know that we eat in response to cues that are either internal or external? Internal cues are the natural feelings of hunger, for example stomach gurgling, or physical weakness. In this case, the desire for food comes from our stomach not our head!
External cues, on the other hand, can powerfully stimulate our urge to eat, whether we are physically hungry or not. Many who experience weight problems, fail to respond to their internal cues, but are driven in response to external cues.
A few examples of external cues:
- Sight of food
- Vending machine
- Smell of food
- Certain locations in the home
- Watching others eat
- Being offered food
- Food advertisements
- Driving in the car
What can you do to avoid being overcome by such cues?
Start by making small adjustments to your lifestyle, this will help you to program yourself against these behaviors. Programming yourself is very important, because it gets you out of the rut of bad habits, and into a healthier way of eating.
Make your environment as free from unhealthy food as you possibly can. Removing the temptations from your home is essential, if you don’t see the cakes, cookies and crisps, they will eventually become less tempting. It is, however, important to replace them with new healthy snacks. By doing this you are reinforcing a new food preference, so each time you choose a healthier substitute, this preference gets stronger and more appealing.
Remember: You’ll eat what’s available, you can’t eat what’s not there, and you won’t eat what you don’t buy. (Dr Phil McGraw)
Challenge yourself – Listen to internal cues, signaling true physical hunger, and only eat in response to this. This may be difficult in the beginning, as you haven’t been listening to your stomach, but rather you’ve been listening to your mind.
This is not an exhaustive list, but you should rid your environment of:
- Biscuits, sweets, chocolate, nuts, crisps
- Sweet cake and doughnuts
- Ice cream and desserts
- Sugared soft drinks
- Any food that you binge on
Maybe you’ve already developed a strong willpower, if that is the case these points won’t be necessary for you, just keep up the good work! However, if you haven’t overcome the urge to overeat, in the short-term, you should adopt this strategy. As your willpower gets stronger, you should be able to have these foods in your home, but still be able to resist.
Replace unhealthy foods with:
Also check out my previous article, 5 Tips for Healthy Food Shopping, for practical tips on choosing healthy food at the supermarket. You may also want to read The Diet Blog’s 8 Indicators of Emotional Eating.
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you!