The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Be Mindful This Super Bowl Sunday

Posted in
Eat better

Thursday, Jan 30, 2014

I can’t wait for the Super Bowl this Sunday… Especially the commercials! Visions of ice-cold beer, cheesy tortilla chips, and sweet sodas dance through my head. Whoa, let’s hold the Clydesdale horses for a moment. I also have a vision of an earlier post that will come in handy this Sunday. It’s about mindful eating - eating when you're physically hungry and stopping when you're full - as opposed to eating for psychological reasons (e.g., stress, excitement, etc.) or outside triggers. A major trigger for eating when not truly hungry is smelling or seeing food. So how might you limit this trigger? Keep your food in just one room of your house - your kitchen. And think about whether you are truly hungry before you open your refrigerator or pantry.

Recent studies conducted by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University support this recommendation1. Researchers tested the effects of television commercials on snacking behaviors in both children and adults. In one experiment, elementary-school-age children watched a cartoon that contained either food advertising or advertising for other products and received a snack while watching. Results showed that children consumed 45% more snack food when exposed to food advertising!

In another experiment, adults watched a television program that included food advertising that promoted snacking and/or fun product benefits, food advertising that promoted nutrition benefits, or no food advertising. The adults then tasted and evaluated a range of healthy to unhealthy snack foods. Results showed that the participants consumed more of both healthy and unhealthy snack foods following exposure to snack food advertising compared to the other conditions.

What was interesting was that food advertising increased consumption of products not in the presented advertisements, and these effects were not related to reported hunger or other conscious influences.

By bringing food into your television rooms and/or going to the kitchen for snack after watching food advertisements you are very likely to fall victim to a powerful trigger for mindless eating. The first step in breaking this trigger is recognizing it. Then, you can avoid it by finding something to do other than eating like taking a walk, calling a friend, or picking up a book when the urge arises.

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1 Harris, J.L. (209).Priming effects of television food advertising on eating behavior. Health Psychology, 28(4), 404-413.