Have you ever been thirsty, gone into the kitchen for a glass of water and left without your water, but instead with a salty or sweet snack? You may have fallen victim to the "see-food syndrome." Yep, when you see food, regardless of whether or not you're actually hungry, you'll likely eat it. Especially if it's a food that you love. We eat for many reasons, but unfortunately many of those reasons do not involve true physical hunger. This is a huge part of why some people find it extremely difficult to lose weight.
Brian Wansink PHD, a Psychologist in the U.S and author of the book "Mindless Eating" has devoted much of career to researching and teaching about the idea of "mindless eating"—eating without being fully aware of what, how much and why you are eating. There are many reasons why we eat. Actual physical hunger, visual cue, emotion (sad, bored, happy), social pressure, fatigue, etc. but I must say, visual cue is a biggy.
When you see, smell or even THINK about a food (especially if it's a carbohydrate-based food that you really like), your pancreas may start to secrete a hormone called insulin, in anticipation of a sugar fix. Insulin decreases your blood sugar level, which makes you feel hungry. So even if you have not even touched the food and you weren't hungry to begin with, all of a sudden you are eating. This could happen several times a day if you're not aware of it. Personally, I know that if anything delicious (and by that I mean anything involving chocolate) is within my vision when I open the pantry or freezer, I will forget about what I was going for in the first place and reach in and grab a cookie or a piece of chocolate…without even thinking about it.
Even though we can't always control which foods make their way into our vision, here are some tips on how to avoid the "see-food syndrome":
Try not to keep too many tempting treats in the house, in your car or at your office. It's a lot less likely that you'll eat junk food if you have to walk or drive all the way to the store to get it every time you have a craving. Most of the time, it just won’t be worth it.
Keep healthier treats in the house that you know you won’t overindulge on. An example is dark chocolate (70% cocoa or greater). For me, one or two squares of dark chocolate after dinner satisfies my chocolate craving, but I’m not tempted to go back for more.
If you have baked goods in the house, keep them in the deep freeze or at the back of your freezer where you can’t see them. Chances are that if you cannot see them, you will forget about them.
Keep an attractive water bottle with you at all times. This sounds funny, but really, you will drink more water. Having a nice water bottle that you can easily carry around with you (perhaps has a handle), will remind you to drink every time you look at it.
Keep healthier things out on the counter or within eyesight so that you are reminded to eat or drink more of them. Keep a colourful arrangement of fruit in a fruit basket on the counter or table. Keep an assortment of herbal teas out on the counter. Get into the habit or putting out raw veggies and low fat dip before supper so that you are tempted to munch on them.