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SUSTAINING HEALTHY EATING HABITS

By Nutrition Expert

 

Monday, August 23, 2010.

Witnessing a skinny friend devouring a supersized McDonald’s meal is enough to diminish any dieting motivation. How often have you thought, “if she can eat that mars bar and remain slim, surely it won't do me any harm.” In a similar way if you eat with your family and they are over-indulging, it’s difficult to resist the temptation to pile your plate high too. On the other hand and rather surprisingly, recent evidence indicates that if you see an overweight person guzzling down snacks, you are more likely to control your own intake.

Our subconscious is a masterful tool; it influences us to make all sorts of dietary decisions based on the company we keep.

We tend to mimic the actions of people we see as being a positive influence and rebel against the actions of individuals that we envisage as less than exemplary role models.

A recent study that appeared in the April 2010 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, showed that both the size and the consumption habits of our eating companions can influence our food intake.

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Ninety five undergraduate women were invited to a lab to participate in a study about movie viewership. Before the film began, each woman was asked to help herself to a snack of either M&M's or granola. Another "participant," who was actually an actor hired by the research team, grabbed her food first, in full view of the subjects at the snack line. In her natural state, the phony participant weighed 105 lb. and wore a size 0.

The actor scooped five tablespoons of food (approximately 71 g of granola or 108 g of M&M's) onto a plate. That's quite a lot. The subjects followed suit, taking more food than they normally would have had they eaten alone. When re-tested with a fat-suited model, there was a notable difference in the portions sizes of the subjects. They took higher portions when the actor was thinner and smaller portions when the actor was larger. When the thin actor grabbed only a small amount of food, the group were more likely to copy her actions.

Our environment and the perception we have of it moulds the choices we make. Think of all the different situations that have caused you to make decisions about your eating habits with little consideration to your hunger level or liking of the food.

Try to remain detached from the eating habits of those around you because things are not always as they appear. Our social connections may not be based on habitual routines. If you see a skinny person overeating in the cinema, it is very possible that this is a one off treat.

Instead of resorting to culling your group of friends. there are tips you can follow to help you stay on track in any social situation.

• Take your own food with you to the cinema or a house party.
• If you are going out for a meal in a restaurant check the online menu and decide what you are going to have in advance.
• Keep a food diary; recording where you eat, how much you eat and who you eat with. This will help you to identify any links between overeating and your social setting.
• Always keep this in mind-One meal may not be representative of someone’s normal eating habits! So if you see your size 10 pal eating a burger and chips don’t jump on the bandwagon.
• When you are out with friends and feel an impulse to copy what they are eating, wait for a few minutes and if you still feel like it then have a small amount.

 

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