Don't let food tempt you to eat more than you should.
All of us eat more food at home than at work. Simply because at home, there is food everywhere: in the fridge, biscuits and namkeenin the sideboard, fruit on the table, chocolates in the drawer.
Being surrounded by food is the cue that persuades us to eat all the time. The moment we see food, we want to eat. The more we see it, the more we consume. And the more we add to our waistline.
In an interesting study at Cornell University, a gift of small chocolates was kept at the desk of some university secretaries. When the chocolates were kept in transparent bowls, the secretaries ate as many as nine chocolates a day; however, when the sweets were placed in opaque containers with lids they ate about six.
Obviously, the secretaries kept seeing the chocolates in transparent bowls while they worked; every time they saw them, they were tempted to pick one. Their initial ‘no' soon became ‘Okay, just this once …' and they ended up eating many.
Clearly, the chocolates at the desk were the cue that they found difficult to resist. Moral of the story: In sight, in stomach.
Cues all around us incite us to pop avoidable foods into our mouth. The logical solution is to keep food out of sight. Check your home for all possible hidden persuaders. Keep the cookie jar and namkeen packets in the cupboard. Better still, lock up the cupboard.
Research shows that when food is inconvenient to reach, we eat less. In the same Cornell study, when the chocolates were kept six feet away from the desk, the consumption went down to only four a day! It has been seen that pause points between us and the food give us time to think and show some restraint.
Research shows a small pause between impulse (“feel like having a chocolate) and action (taking a cookie from the jar on your desk) can help us overcome the impulse.
What you can do
So you can:
Create your own pause points. Lock the goodies cupboard, keep the food in such a place that it will be inconvenient for you to go and get it.
Leave serving dishes in the kitchen or a sideboard. Having them a few feet away gives us a chance to ask if we are really that hungry. Turn this around for salad and veggies. Keep them in a ‘pick-me-up' spot in the middle of the table.
Keep all desserts frozen so that they cannot be eaten as soon as the fancy to eat takes hold.
Any mithai or other goodies should be kept in opaque/steel containers in the furthest corner of the fridge. Instead, keep a box with cut salad in the front; take out this box whenever you have the urge to munch. The trick is to make healthy foods easy to see and less healthy foods hard to see.
Clear up your office desk and the car dashboard of all food items.
Snack only at the table and on a plate. This makes it less convenient to serve, eat and clean up after an impulse snack. Insist that children get a plate or a bowl before digging into the goodies. Portion them out.
We humans usually avoid hassles. We would eat far fewer almonds or peanuts if we had to shell them first. So buy nuts in their shells.
You are the best person to figure out what works best for you. Do a short exercise. Note down all that you eat on a given day, the reason why you ate it and the amount of effort it took to get it. This in itself will be revealing experience which will help you understand how you can limit your intake, and of course, your girth.
The writer is a nutrition and health researcher and author of The Power of N: Nutrition in our Times.