According to the poll of 2,000 people, we mull over hunger, meal choices and deciding whether something is healthy for an average of two hours and 13 minutes every day.
A neuroscientist called Dr Jack Lewis, gives his top 12 tips on how to stop this from leading you into temptation by tricking your body into beating a craving, training your brain to learn to eat healthily, and becoming happier and healthier so you are not reliant on food for comfort.
Grab a pre-meal snack
By eating a healthy snack 20-30 minutes before you go grocery shopping or pop out for lunch you’ll be able to exercise much more control when selecting your food and ultimately make healthier choices.
What we see is what we eat
Consider using plates and bowls with a smaller surface area. We eat with our eyes and the size of our plates can have a huge influence on portion control. A normal portion on a larger plate may seem small but transfer that to a smaller plate and it will look more filling.
Learn to predict the labels
Test how close your perceptions are to reality by guessing the fat, sugar or carbohydrate content in different foods and then retrain your brain by checking the label. This will help you identify foods that seem healthy, but aren’t necessarily. Over time, your perceptions will be much more aligned with reality.
Distract yourself from temptation
We can dramatically reduce the power of the impulse to indulge by trying to divert our attention elsewhere. If it’s not possible to move away from food entirely, you can use your imagination to distract yourself by pretending it is made out of an inedible perhaps even disgusting substance.
Swap comfort food for feel-good exercise
When we eat comfort foods it creates a response in the brain’s pleasure pathways that make us feel good. Endocannabinoids are one of the brain’s most powerful natural drugs that make us feel good. By doing just 15 minutes of exercise a day, we considerably raise our levels of endocannabinoids and reduce our reliance on food to do this for us.
Phone a friend
Often when we turn to food to give us a boost, we’re actually looking for a sympathetic ear or perhaps even a hug from a friend. By picking up the phone and having a good chat with a friend you could improve your mood without having to increase the day’s calorie count.
Snack on slow-release carbs
When we consume sugar fast-release carbs are dumped into the blood and the excess sugar is then extracted and stored as fat, meaning that an hour later we feel hungry again and consume more sugar. Instead snack on slow-release carbs, such as wholegrains, fruit and vegetables rather than biscuits and cakes.
Decide on what to eat before you get to the restaurant
As naturally sociable creatures those around us heavily influence our eating habits. We eat 33 per cent more dining out with one other person, 47 per cent more dining out with two other people and 58 per cent more with three other people. When you’re eating out with others look at the menu online, choose beforehand and stick to it.
We feel full 20 to 30 minutes after we actually are full as this is when our bodies have finished processing the food and communicated the feeling to our brain. Therefore you should stop eating before you actually feel full. Also put your cutlery down between each mouthful – taking longer between each bite is the key.
Many drinks have ‘hidden’ calories, but low-fat or low-sugar options are usually not as tasty. A halfway house can help us adjust to the taste. For example try a 50/50 mix of cow and soya milk or cow and almond milk.
Improve your brain power to think more clearly
When you need to pop to the shops, spend a few minutes making a mental list of what you need, committing the items to memory rather than writing them down. Challenge yourself to remember more items each week. These brain exercises will help to increase your working memory, helping you to keep more information in mind at the same time before you brain gets overloaded. This will help you to think clearly when making food choices.
Take daily downtime to de-stress
By taking time to clear your mind of life’s daily stresses you can reduce your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) meaning you’ll feel less frazzled when it comes to meal times and therefore more likely to make the right decisions. Taking five minutes for yourself each day to clear your mind of daily stresses will really make a difference.