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The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management, a program of the Institute for Lifelong Weight Management – teaching you the skills you need to keep the weight off forever!

Eating Triggers – Food Aromas

Every day, we face situations which trigger us to eat, even when we are not hungry, or to continue eating when we are already full. Being fully aware of our triggers is critical for successful long-term weight loss maintenance.

Our eating habits are strongly affected by food aromas. Have you ever struggled to resist the urge to buy popcorn at the movies? Or the urge to order fries with your healthy seafood and salad entrée?

Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think” and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab has conducted hundreds of experiments to study the many factors which cue people to eat, and to overeat. Dr Wansink calls these factors the “hidden persuaders”. In one experiment, people ate more plain oatmeal when it was served in a bowl that was infused with the smell of cinnamon and raisins, than they did when it was served in a plain bowl.

Barbara Berkeley, M.D., author of “Refuse to Regain: 12 Tough Rules to Maintain the Body You’ve Earned!” coined the term “Food Avalanche” to describe the “food flood” that we live in: “an entire culture devoted to encouraging you to eat. Expect to be buried and make sure you have the tools to dig out.” The restaurant industry is well aware that aromas can create cravings, and takes very good advantage of this. In fact, says Dr Wansink, there are whole companies devoted to assisting them. For example, he notes, ScentAir amongst others “has succeeded in duplicating the aromas of some of the most tempting foods around – popcorn, cinnamon buns, and even hamburgers. Companies like this sell these scents to places that use artificial aromas to replace a food’s natural smell, or to enhance it.” According to Dr Wansink, McDonalds for example has used the scent of apple pie to remind us to order dessert!

Did you ever go into a restaurant or fast food outlet and smell peaches? Surely if they can create the smell of popcorn and fries they can create and enhance the smell of oranges – or vine-ripened tomatoes?

Pavel Somov, Ph.D., author of “Eating the Moment: 101 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time”, writes that “smell is chemistry: when we smell a given food, however far away from it our nose may be we are, in fact, coming into direct contact with the miniscule amounts of that food’s particles that have randomly roamed into our nasal passages. So, if I smell chocolate, it means that while there may be no chocolate in sight, let alone in my mouth, there’s already chocolate in my nose and on my mind. And, unless steered by a conscious mind, the mouth will blindly follow the nose to the source of the smell.”

I invite you to become more aware of food smells – at the grocery store, in restaurants, in your own home, wherever you go. Notice what you smell and how it is affecting your appetite, your sense of hunger, your decision-making about what you will eat, and your salivary glands.

Please share your experience with me and with other readers, by commenting on this post.

With your continued health in mind,

Doreen Lerner, Ph.D.
Director, The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management
Creator, The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management

The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management provides education and training. The Full Mind Weigh™ is strictly an educational program and is not a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment. If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, please consult with a qualified mental health professional who is trained to evaluate and treat eating disorders.