Our environment, everything around us, plays a starring role in our healthy eating endeavors. However, it is rarely on our side when it comes to helping us make better choices. Imagine a common scenario - you set an intention to forgo dessert one evening when you’re out to eat with friends, but one look at the dessert menu and you can forget those good intentions.
Fortunately, there are ways we can hack our environment so that it’s easier to stick with our intentions, not overeat and ultimately reach our healthy eating goals.
1) Studies have proven time and again that we are poor estimators of how much food (and drink) we’re actually consuming. Specifically, people underestimate the amount of food they eat when using large bowls and plates. To counteract this bias in estimation, opt for smaller plates and bowls whenever possible. This applies to drinking glasses as well - even though goblet-sized wine glasses can be fun, try the smaller size to ensure a guilt-free morning after.
2) One of the strongest influences on how much we eat is how easy it is to access and consume food (just think about a night out at a buffet or an open bar). One study demonstrated an all too common occurrence during the workday. Chocolates were placed either on a person’s desk or a few feet away from their desk. When the chocolates were placed on their desks, they ate 5.6 more chocolates a day than when they had to stand up and walk just a few feet for them. Use this trick during dinnertime. Keep the meal on the stovetop or in the kitchen instead of on the dining room table. Even the short distance will make you less likely to get up for seconds.
3) It’s no secret that package and portion sizes have a huge impact on our eating, yet we buy in bulk to get the best deal. When packages are doubled in size, people tend to eat up to 30% to 45% more of their favorite snack foods. We think we’re saving money by buying in bulk, but in fact, research has proven that bulk foods get consumed faster. Not only are we losing money, but also eating more, sometimes dubbed the “Costco effect”. Instead, spend a little more money up front on smaller pre-portioned snacks and foods to save money in the long run and reduce the amount of food you’re consuming.
I encourage you to take every advantage you can of the not so subtle influence your environment has on you. Use these hacks throughout your day to make it easier to stick to your healthy eating intentions!