We live in a marketing-driven food world.
Digital media influences 70% of food decisions in America. Companies spend millions of dollars on research to attract us to their products. They are so good that food ads can actually prime automatic eating behaviors. Working in marketing for decades has attuned me to this.
But it wasn’t until I began applying my mindfulness practice to food that I became aware of how marketing triggers impacted my own consumption. Mindful eating also gives me the ability to turn these triggers to my advantage.
Here’s how you can too.
1. Visually devour your food
Food ads create crave.
We all have visual hunger, a natural desire, or urge, to look at food. Beautiful food images tap into primal brain wiring and can cause us to eat more.
Interestingly, studies also show looking at food can reduce consumption of food of similar taste.
“Similar taste” is key. When we eat a lot of the same thing, we experience gradual reduction in hunger, a sense of palate fatigue. Taking in the food virtually, through our eyes, can have a similar effect.
- Look carefully at the food you are about to consume.
- Take in the entire salad bar, feast your eyes on your dinner plate, inspect that forkful with renewed interest. Fill yourself with visual satisfaction before you begin eating.
- Make your food more appealing.
- Pay attention to your plating to create visually fulfilling meals. Researchers find that artfully arranged food tastes better than food plopped on a plate. Try this to create crave for healthy ingredients.
- Acknowledge the power of your visual hunger.
- Enact a mindful offense and remove temptations from view. Take snacks off the counter, sit far away from the buffet. Take a deep breath and turn away from those break room donuts.
2. Get heartful
Brands are masters of using emotion to sell.
Often, eating is linked to emotions. We may associate foods with treats from our past or think of them as relief from unpleasantness. We may have unmet emotional needs. At these times, we may turn to food to comfort our emotional hunger.
Many ads try to make a connection between food and emotion, promising emotional benefits beyond the actual food. Ads may infer that consumption of a brand will bring belonging, happiness, exhilaration, or benefits to our identities, like being good providers.
Noticing emotions around food can help identify helpful options if what is hungry is our hearts, not our bodies.
- Learn to recognize your emotional hunger
- Take two deep breaths and relax into the present moment.
- Put your mind in your heart. Observe what you feel. What is your heart saying?
- Now put your mind in your tummy. Are you physically hungry? Get curious about where your hunger is coming from without passing judgment.
- If your heart is the hungry one, ask what else may be satisfying – taking a walk, calling a friend, watching funny cat videos?
3. Savor with a smile
Food marketing showcases engaged, upbeat eaters.
Actors are paid to relish each bite with a smile. They actually take time to chew and taste the product - no shoving it in while distractedly multi-tasking.
And they look happier afterwards, which is likely accurate. Researchers have found the ability to savor promotes happiness. The more you extend positive experiences, the more positive emotions fill your time.
Savoring food is also a powerful way to moderate portion size. The more focused you are on the pleasure of eating, the harder it is to eat to the point of discomfort. Sometimes overeating is just our body’s attempt at experiencing pleasure.
Savor your way to a happy place. Remove distractions (put the screens away) and pay focused attention to prolonging your first few delicious bites. You may find that you don’t need to eat much more.
To learn more about Heather and her work with mindful eating, visit www.heather-sears.com