Boston, MA—A nice, cozy atmosphere, big helpings, the way the food is arranged—seemingly small variables like these may go a long way toward explaining the American penchant for overeating. While many people are concerned with what's in their food, recent studies suggest that we pay more attention to the circumstances in which we eat. The November issue of the Harvard Health Letter looks at the various environmental factors that contribute to America 's increased food consumption.
Although fast food can be nutritionally unhealthy, unhurried meals can also add calories through desserts and extra drinks. When we linger over food, we are more likely to eat more without noticing. Researchers at Georgia State University in Atlanta have found that when people eat with others, they consume 44% more food than when they eat alone. Additionally, people tend to eat more with spouses, family members, and friends than they do with strangers. Not surprisingly, putting food within easy reach also promotes consumption.
The November issue of the Harvard Health Letter also provides tips for controlling how much you eat:
When you eat out, go elsewhere for after-dinner coffee so you aren't tempted to segue into dessert.
Play hard to get.
Put the most tempting foods high up in the cupboard, at the very back of the refrigerator, or in other inconvenient spots.
Many small containers are better than a few large ones, because they provide convenient stopping points. Never eat directly out of a large package.
Decide how much you're going to eat before an event and do your best to stick to that plan.
Keep it the same.
Don't put out too many different varieties of the same kind of food. You'll be tempted to sample from each one and eat a lot more than if you were faced with fewer choices.