Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Food Cues, Priming, and Overeating

"No thanks, I don't eat candy."

"I can't stop at one Girl Scout cookie, I will end up eating them all.

These simple sentences can go a long way to helping you not overeat. Why do you need these? Because in a world of hyperpaliatable foods and constant cues to eat, you need to be prepared to deal with several hyperpaliatable food interactions per day.

Eating one piece of candy or a Girl Scout cookie itself may not be so bad. However, the real problem comes from the 'priming' to eat more and more of that (or similar) food (after you eat just one bite). David Kessler, author of The End Of Overeating, explains that you need to break what he calls the cue-urge-reward-habit cycle. Once you experience a food cue, such as the site of chocolate cake, or the smell of pizza, you will very shortly develop the urge to eat it. This is the brief window when you can intervene with a concious, planned monologue to yourself and break the cycle. Saying "I don't eat candy", when you find yourself looking at the bowl of M&Ms, will override the unconscious urge. If not, then one piece becomes two, and three, and so on until you have consumed a half of a cup of M&Ms.

Be prepared to deal with potential overeating situations with hyperpaliatable foods. Just about all of us will lose control when we eat these foods and end up consuming much more than we planned. Just like an ex-smoker may feel the urge, from time to time, to smoke a cigarette (especially when they are upset or stressed), they know that just one cigarette will put them right back in the habit. Break the cue-urge-reward-habit cycle by being prepared to deal with potentially uncontrollable eating by having a planned, conscious monologue in your head to override any unconscious urge. Because, as the Ruffles slogan says, "you can't just have one."

1 comment:

Liz said...

uh this came at the right time. Just indulged the day before in 1 samoa girl scout cookie...no more. Thanks:)