The desire to eat is not always triggered by physical hunger. Eating cues include social, personal and environmental triggers that prompt an individual to eat. These cues are separate from physical hunger, though they may coincide with it and are often confused as the body’s indication that it needs sustenance.
There are several ways that eating cues may encourage a person to overeat:
- Unregulated exposure to food can encourage frequent snacking
- Social situations often lead to snacking and oversized portions
- Emotional stress may encourage someone to turn to comfort food
- Watching television may cause someone to mindlessly overeat
These four examples highlight the most common types of eating cues, and how they can encourage unhealthy eating behaviors. During your OPTIFAST program, you’ll have to adjust the way you respond to these eating cues. The best way to do this is to increase your awareness of your personal eating habits, and how different cues may be impacting your weight loss efforts.
Social Eating Cues
This refers to the type of eating behavior encouraged through social situations. Visiting family, meeting for dinner with friends or even spending a day at the office may trigger you to eat inappropriately.
There are several ways you can overcome unhealthy social cues during your OPTIFAST program:
- Re-arrange your social schedule so that you are getting together for something non-food related. Consider going to a park, a sporting event or shopping instead of meeting for a meal.
- Limit your exposure to food at social events by positioning yourself as far away from the snacks as possible.
- While at your office, reduce the amount of time you spend talking to co-workers in the break room.
- If a co-worker invites you out to lunch, tell them you brought your lunch but would kindly eat with them when they return. Then, have your OPTIFAST product ready to go.
Environmental Eating Cues
This is the type of eating cue that comes from a specific place. Seeing certain restaurants or bakeries may cause you to feel immediately hungry as you begin to crave a special item, or going to a relative’s house may tempt you to break from your weight loss plan as you are presented with favorite family foods.
It is not always possible to change your environment, but you can control how you react to it. Here are several ways you can control environmental eating cues:
- Eat before leaving the house. If you aren’t hungry then you aren’t as likely to be tempted by something you see.
- Clear your desk at work of any snacks so you can’t mindlessly reach for one out of convenience.
- Remove any tempting foods from your home so you don’t have constant access to them.
- When you are exposed to food, do your best to keep your mind on something else. Cravings are fueled by your thoughts.
There are certain aspects of your life that you likely associate with food. Maybe your family often ate dinner together in front of the television, and now you feel hungry whenever you sit down on the couch to watch TV. Identifying negative eating behaviors like these can help you stay on track during your OPTIFAST program.
Here are a few tips for overcoming personal eating cues:
- Create places where it is okay to eat and don’t eat anywhere else. For example, make it a rule that you eat at the table and not on the couch.
- Learn other ways to manage your stress. You can try exercising, doing deep breathing exercises or journaling.
- Go to bed earlier. It is known that we eat more when we are tired. Stay alert and on track with your weight loss efforts by sleeping well.
Consider the ways you are influenced by different aspects of your life, and keep track of how often you turn to food when you aren’t physically hungry. Your OPTIFAST meal replacement program gives you the chance to make a total diet overhaul. As you adjust to your weight loss program, keep these tips in mind.