How Your Environment Affects What You Eat

June 12, 2017  |  
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Do you have that one restaurant that you always walk out of over-stuffed? Each time you go in there, you seem to overeat, and you don’t even realize it while it’s happening. You don’t even necessarily order (what you believe to be) unhealthy items there, but you just can’t seem to leave comfortably full. Then you have places you always leave hungry, which is frustrating in its own right since you paid good money to dine there. How did you lose touch with your stomach in those places, and not notice that you were stuffed to the gills, or not quite yet satisfied? It could have been the environment since that’s the one thing that likely stays the same. Your mood and hunger level walking in may change, but the place won’t. Here is how your environment affects what you eat.

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The buffet layout

When you first walk into any grab-all environment, like a close-out sale or a buffet, your eyes are far less discerning. Everything looks like a good idea because it’s cheap, or all included. If the buffet sets the cheesy potatoes and pot roast towards the front of the line, you’ll likely eat more of this than the salads simply because the salads come later, but your plate is already full.

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The temperature

If you’re cold, you won’t want salad, gazpacho soup or a sandwich—you’ll want French onion soup, a roast, mashed potatoes, and other items that tend to cost more, and be heavier. That’s why some restaurants crank up the AC. Bring a heavy sweater to those venues, so you can accurately assess your hunger.



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The entertainment

If everyone is eating snacks throughout a movie, you may feel pretty good about yourself if you simply eat something for the first half hour of the movie. But if you weren’t at a movie, you wouldn’t have been munching on candy and popcorn at that time at all.

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The relative choices

If everything is unhealthy, then the less evil item looks healthy. In other words, if you’re staring down a menu that has seven steak options, tons of pasta and just one salad, you may feel pretty good about yourself for getting the pasta because it was technically healthier than the steak. But was it really healthy?

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Dark, romantic settings

Dark, romantic settings with blood-like colors of maroon and dark purple bring out our primal side and make us crave things like steak, potatoes, and dark chocolate. Ordering a kale salad when your only light is coming from a dripping red candle feels wrong, doesn’t it?

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The outdoors

When you dine outdoors, you feel more connected to nature and may find yourself wanting to eat more things that come directly from nature. That’s why you stuff your picnic basket with fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese and eggs.




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The shape of the table

Long rectangular tables with sharp edges make us think of structure, rigidity, and limitations. This could cause you to order something healthier, and pay very close attention to how much you eat. Meanwhile, round tables feel more social, welcoming and warm, and may encourage you to eat more.

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The size of the table

If you’re sitting closer to your companions, you get a closer look at what they are eating and how much they are eating. Sitting close together at a small table could make it so that what your friends are eating influences what you eat more than if you were spread out at a large table.

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Fast-paced music

Fast-paced music makes you want to do everything fast! That’s why you buy a lot of clothing in stores pumping out house music fit for Coachella and why you run on the treadmill longer listening to party tunes. It’s also why you eat too quickly at some restaurants.



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Your dining companions

Your friends have a big influence on you. If everybody is on their cheat day and throwing caution to the wind, you’ll have a hard time sticking to your plan of ordering half a sandwich and a salad. It almost feels rude not to partake in the cheesy bread ordered for the table.




Bar settings

Bar settings are naturally indulgent places. People at bars are already consuming something they don’t nutritionally need—alcohol—so they may put all rules aside for the day and consume other things they don’t need, like nachos and fries.




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Simple, clean décor

Simple, clean décor, like long, white, picnic-style benches and walls with little patterns can make you feel light and airy—a feeling you don’t want to ruin with a heavy stew or a big plate of pasta.





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Eating solo

If you eat alone, you’ll probably eat a little more than you would if you ate with friends. This is because when we eat alone, we tend to turn on the television or read a book, and then the same psychology of the movie theater sets in.




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Your access to Instagram

When you scroll through your Instagram feed, it looks like everybody else is indulging, so why shouldn’t you! Keep in mind that people only post the photos of their most decadent dishes. Your friends don’t always eat like that, but a photo of their salmon and brown rice wouldn’t bring in the “Likes.”


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Ingredient décor

Bundles of pasta hanging from the ceiling and wreaths of dried tomatoes make you feel like you’re connected to something pure and natural when you order the spaghetti and meatballs. But it’s still spaghetti and meatballs.

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