Ever had the mindless munchies, where you’re shoveling bite after bite of food in your mouth and all of a sudden you realize that you’ve overindulged and polished off more than you intended to chew? And don’t you feel even guiltier when you realize that you didn’t even enjoy it? A new study from the University of Southern California has a potential solution: change your eating environment.
During this study, researchers gave participants a bag of popcorn – some stale (popped a week ago) and others fresh (popped less than an hour ago). These individuals sat in a dark movie theatre watching trailers. Afterwards, they were asked to indicate in a questionnaire if they habitually ate popcorn in the movie theatre. The findings: Individuals who indicated they regularly ate popcorn in a movie theatre consumed about 63% of the bag (regardless of its freshness/taste).
“People believe their eating is controlled by internal preferences,” said David Neal, assistant professor in psychology at USC at the time of the study said. “We think how much we eat is guided by how hungry we are or taste of the food options. But in reality, that’s not the case. The environment plays a big role.” To prove this, researchers then altered the environment, setting up a dark meeting room instead of the theatre. In this environment, less popcorn was consumed.
The last part of the study brought researchers back to the movie theatre, where they asked participants who chose to eat popcorn to switch to their non-dominant hand. This time, the amount of stale popcorn eaten by habitual eaters dropped about 30%. The amount of fresh popcorn eaten also dropped, but the difference was slight.
“It’s inconvenient and disruptive to eat with the non-dominant hand, but that effect is much stronger when the food is horrible,” Neal said. “It suggests it’s not just inconvenience. It makes you think, ‘Is there a value of what I’m doing? Does this taste good? Am I hungry?’ If the answer is no, you stop eating.”
Of course, while changing the environment in which you eat – or what hand you used to eat it with – will not make or break your journey towards weight loss and weight maintenance, it can help you break mindless eating habits, prevent caloric overload, and is just another small lifestyle change in the bigger picture of success.
But, if you’re looking for an even better way to prevent mindless eating, resist purchasing these snacks in the first place or practice portion control by limiting the size and amount available to you while you take in a movie or watch television. Consider Robard's variety of portion controlled, healthy, yet delicious snacks alternative - view them now in our Product Catalog!