By: Philip Palmer, BA, CPT, GEI

It is the time of year when temperatures start to drop, the leaves start changing, the pumpkin flavors are in constant sight, and sweets and candies surround you. From doctors offices to gyms to libraries, bowls of sugar laden, zero-nutritional-value foods are constantly present. There are tricks on how to say “no” to these not so healthy treats. Sometimes it just takes a strong will power, yet if you struggle with that, there are other tricks to keeping these sweet temptations away. If you can learn these, you will set yourself up for success, especially as the holidays are next in line for bringing their own sort of temptations. Let’s get you ready to say no! 

In the book “Mindless Eating” the author Brian Wansink shows that it is easy to mindlessly eat food when it is in front of you. The researchers found that when candy dishes were both visible and convenient, office workers ate more each day. Areas of concern include sweets sitting on the work space, desk, counter top, or table. In the study, overeating was even worse when subjects didn’t even need to move to reach the sweet. The researchers noticed consumption decreased when the sweets were placed in things that were not visible yet still convenient. For example, a towel was placed over top of a clear bowl or even putting a lid over it reduced consumption. Even better, the researchers noticed that consumption decreased even more when the candy was placed in an inconvenient location that took effort to get to. This could be on the counter or on a shelf away from where you typically sit. Lastly the strategy that worked the best was “out of sight out of mind.” This is where the problem food is hidden away, typically in a dark place like a kitchen drawer, the pantry, or even on a shelf that is hard to reach. By it not being in sight, one will most likely not think about it frequently and if one does more motivation is required to look for it.  

All this research is great, yet it will only benefit you if you can put it to practice! Having things in sight leads to flat out more consumption. You can use this fact to better your health, or to cause more problems. Instead of using this principle of “out of sight, out of mind” to ward off temptations you could use it to get more fruits and greens in your diet. I’ve observed that many put their fruits and veggies in the bottom of the fridge (out of sight!). These are the most perishable items, typically with no preservatives, yet are what most people don’t eat enough of and tend to be some of the most thrown away items. Putting something healthy on the top most visible shelf of the fridge will make it more noticeable and, therefore, entice one to eat it more often, while the unhealthy things which typically have more preservatives can be tucked away in those bottom drawers or back of the fridge. 

I encourage you to try one or two of these strategies to see if it helps increase the good and ward off those temptations. If you’re struggling with being able to adhere to the “out of sight, out of mind” principle and find yourself searching for the hidden food daily, there is one fail proof strategy. If you don’t buy something, you cannot eat it. For example, when I buy banana chips it doesn’t matter where I put them, I’ll find them! Whether it be on the counter, hidden on the top shelf that I have to climb on to, or tucked away in the washer. I’ll find them like a bloodhound finds a person. It doesn’t matter the strategy “out of sight, out of mind.” For me, the only thing that curbs this addiction is to not buy them. This might be a strategy you need to use with certain foods as well, and that’s okay!

At the end of the day you know what’s best for you, and if you don’t, experiment on some of these strategies and choose the one that fits with your goals!