woman unhealthy eating by her laptop
Diet & Nutrition

Spring Clean Your Eating Habits

We’ve all been there: The mere sight of the Starbucks logo makes us crave a caramel latte. Ditto craving a chocolate-glazed treat when driving by Dunkin Donuts.

These, along with dozens if not hundreds of other sights, sounds and smells in the world around are our food triggers. They cue us to eat, whether we’re hungry or not. And they are one of our waistline’s biggest enemies.

We are fighting off food triggers all day long, says Susan, who is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester and an expert in the psychology of eating.

Our culture promotes eating at any time of the day, in any imaginable location. Long gone are meal times at the family table. Which means that nearly every situation has become a cue to eat.

But mindlessly putting food in our mouth as a knee-jerk reaction to triggers not only leads to overeating and weight gain, but actually rewires the brain to create constant cravings. In a vicious cycle, the more we give in to food triggers, the more we have them.

But breaking the cycle is relatively easy once you’re aware of it – and spring cleaning your eating habits to ditch food triggers away may be just what you need to slim down for the season ahead.

Here’s how:

Eat regular meals

A steady schedule of three meals a day at regular mealtimes—breakfast, lunch, and dinner —trains the brain to eat the right things at the right times and to pass up the wrong things in between.

Establish food-free zones

Draw up a list of places you tend to eat beyond the table: your car, the couch, your office desk… Designate them food-free zones – and stick to it.

Practice an attitude of gratitude

Research shows that something as simple as expressing gratitude will replenish willpower.  Gratitude also helps shift the focus from what you want, or crave, to what you have – making it easier for you to drive right by that donut shop as you count your blessings.

Gradually you’ll take back control, clean away those triggers and be the only one deciding where and when you eat.

Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D. is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester and an expert in the psychology of eating. She is President of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss and CEO of Bright Line Eating Solutions, a company dedicated to sharing the psychology and neuroscience of sustainable weight loss and helping people live Happy, Thin, and Free. She is the author of Bright Line Eating,