What Leads You to the First Bite of Food?

This afternoon I was buying some liquorice from the local health food shop. It is something I do frequently and am familiar with the guy who served me.

As I was purchasing the liquorice, he shared with me a story. He told me that yesterday he ate a whole block of chocolate and when he got to the end, he wondered how he got there. I said to him “I’m glad that happens to you too, as I do that too.” We smiled, I paid for the liquorice and then we both went back to our day.

After I was in my car, I started reflecting, what were the triggers that led me to go to the store and have that first bite of the liquorice?


What Leads You to the First Bite?

Before we start looking at the triggers of eating, let’s look at the number of food-related decisions we make per day. According to Brian Cornell, we make between 200-300 food-related decisions a day. Pretty amazing huh?

Are you aware of those decisions? Don’t worry if you are not! Brian’s research found we are only aware of a small percentage of them.

So what leads to this first bite of food?

There are many triggers that lead to the first bite of food including –

  • visual: you see food. For example – a free giveaway offered at the shops or seeing an advertisement for food;
  • smell: you smell food. For example – the scent of a freshly baked cake or the smell of a BBQ;
  • sound: you hear people eating or talking about food. For example – a colleague crunching chips in the office or hearing a can of your favourite drink opening;
  • environmental: certain places, times of the day or situations in our environment. For example – experiencing cravings for food at a certain time of the day or night or passing a bakery;
  • social: certain relationships, friends or family can trigger eating. For example – feeling pressure from family or friends to drink or order an entree when eating out;
  • emotional: different emotions may trigger eating. For example – feeling sad, bored, lonely or in pain and then reaching for food for comfort;
  • mental: different thoughts, beliefs and memories may trigger you to eat. For example – “I don’t trust my body” or thinking about how things ‘should’ be; and
  • physical: different sensations or signals from your body. For example – do you eat when you are hungry, before or after you exercise or do you eat when you are tired?.


Are there any other examples you would add that lead you to the first bite of food?


So, What Leads You to the First Bite?

After reading the above triggers of eating, what triggers you to the first bite of food?

Do you –

  • eat because you are hungry or when you are not hungry?
  • tend to eat more when you are feeling stressed or tired?
  • see food as a reward for when you have had a bad day or completed a project?
  • tend to eat when you are feeling bored or lonely?


What Next?

Now you have developed some awareness around what leads you to the first bite of food, you can identify if these actions are mindful or mindless. Once you know the difference, you can take the next step and transform those habits if you choose too!


Reference –

Wansink, B., and Sobal, J. (2007), Mindless Eating: The 200 Daily Food Decisions We Overlook. Environment and Behavior, 39:1 (January), 106-23.



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