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Out of Sight Out of Mind

By Philip Palmer, BA, CPT, GEI


It is that 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 libraries, to even some gyms, bowls of sugar laden, zero-nutritional value foods are constantly in front of you. There are tricks on how to say no to these not so healthy treats. Sometimes it takes a strong will power, but 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 as the holidays are next in line bringing their own sort of temptations. Let’s get you ready to say no! 


In the book “Mindless Eating” the author Brian Wansink showed 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 could be sweets sitting on your workspace, desk, countertop, or table. Overeating was even worse when they didn’t even need to move to reach the sweet as they were within arms reach. The researchers noticed consumption decreased when the sweets were placed in things that were not visible, yet still convenient. For example, instead of a clear bowl a towel was placed over top, or even putting a lid over 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 shelf away from where you typically sit. Lastly, the strategy that worked the best was “out of sight out of mind.” This is where you take the problem item and hide it, typically in a dark place like a kitchen drawer, the pantry, or even on a shelf that is hard to reach. With it not being in sight, you will most likely not think about it frequently, and if it does come up, then motivation is required to look for it.  


All this research is great yet it will only benefit you if you can incorporate it into your daily life, also known as making a lifestyle change. The research proves that having things in sight leads to more consumption. You can use this fact to better your health or potentially cause issues. 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. The most perishable items that typically have zero preservatives, are what most people don’t eat enough of, and tend to be some of the most thrown away items. By putting something healthy on the top of the fridge, you will notice it more often, while the unhealthy things, which typically have more preservatives, can be tucked away. 


I encourage you to try one or two of these strategies to see if it helps you increase the good and ward off those temptations. In addition, I have one more strategy to for you to try. If you’re struggling with being able to override 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. 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 onto, or tucked away in the washer. I’ll find them like a bloodhound finds a runaway. It doesn’t matter the strategy “out of sight out of mind,” the best way to curb a problem addiction is not buy them. At the end of the day you know what’s best for you, and I encourage you to experiment on some of these strategies and choose the one that fits with your goals. 


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