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6 Ways to Take Control of Food

Pink Sherbet Photography / flickr

Are you aware of what you eat, why you eat, and when you eat? By becoming more aware of the six major factors that influence your eating habits, you can take control of what's on your plate.

1. Hunger

Studies have shown that we eat less than 25 percent of the time for true physiological hunger, even though every innate mechanism in our body to regulate when and how much we eat is based upon this primal drive. So ask yourself if your hunger is real or if it's a craving triggered by emotion.

2. Social Habits

Human beings are innately social, and a large part of our social interactions revolve around food. From business lunches and dinners to parties and happy hours, your social habits can have a major impact on what you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat. When you go to dinner with friends, what types of food do you eat? How much does the evening revolve around food? Figure out how your social habits affect the foods you eat so you can plan accordingly.

3. Time Constraints

Time constraints definitely impact the speed with which we eat. With more and more time constraints, we not only seek convenience foods that require less time for preparation, but we also consume food faster. This goes against the body's normal gearing-up mechanism for eating that produces the digestive enzymes needed to digest the food that is coming. In the United States, studies have shown that many meals take less than three minutes. Digestive enzymes aren't released for 15 minutes into a meal. No wonder we have so much indigestion. How long does it take you to eat an average meal? Slow down.

4. Family and Culture

Food is part of the celebration of life and every culture has some ritual and social structure around eating. In many cultures, these social rituals lead to obesity. In many families, food is love. Ask yourself how your family affects your nutrition. For instance, do you sit down together as a family to eat? Or does everyone eat on their own? What types of foods are common in your cultural meals? Do you sit around the table after eating or do you immediately get up? How does this impact your eating? In many families the moms work full time. How has this influenced the meals?

5. Stress

Stress has a big impact on why you eat and what you eat. When the body is stressed, it triggers a fight or flight response. This response requires blood sugar to be ready for action. So when you're under high stress, your body craves high sugar and then high-fat food because it provides fuel for the short and long haul. Studies show that 50 percent of people eat more when under stress, and 50 percent don't eat at all when they're stressed. Both of these responses can be unhealthy. How do you respond to stress?

6. Travel

A study in the United States tracked people who travel and found that those who regularly travel consume up to 4.5 kg (10lbs) more preservatives and chemicals, 4.5kg to 7kg (10-15lbs) of extra sugar and twice the trans fats that they eat at home. What food do you eat when you travel? Be prepared by packing snacks to take with you and plan your meals on the road just as you would at home.

Scott Peltin is one of the founding partners and chief performance officer of TIGNUM, the leading sustainable performance institute for corporate leaders. To learn more, visit

tignum.com

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Tags: Planning, Eating Out, Weight Loss, Food, Focus

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