3 things influencing your diet – without you even knowing!

01 April 2016 | Healthy living

Whilst many of us wish we had more willpower when it comes to our diet, most of us probably don't realise just how much outside factors affect our food choices.

Food adverts, for example, use clever strategies to tempt us – and sometimes we happily succumb to these – but there are a whole host of things that subconsciously lead to us making unhealthy choices.

Here we look at three common culprits to be aware of:

1. Culture

So much of what we eat is shaped by family, religion or social norms. It can be very difficult to break away from these, especially if they’ve become a tradition, such as the box of Roses at Christmas, or if they are enjoyed with others.

However, by being aware of these influences, you can be more prepared to resist temptation, such as setting yourself acceptable allowances in advance. Research shows that publically sharing goals means you’re more likely to stick to them, so why not let people know, and ask them to support you rather than tempt you? This will mean you can really enjoy your allowed quota of treats, guilt-free, and won’t suffer from the post-binge regret!

2. Other people’s choices

Eating with others has an influence and, unfortunately, it mostly leads us to eating more than we would on our own. But did you know your fellow-diner’s weight can make a difference? Surprisingly, research shows we’re more influenced by the choices of someone who is thin rather than heavy – and the most dangerous people to eat with are those who are thin but heavy eaters.

If you’re trying to watch your weight, it’s important to recognise situations where you might be vulnerable to over-eating. Remember that everyone’s body is different, so stick to the goals you’ve set yourself, as looking for cues about what to eat from others can be misleading.

3. Emotions

From an early age we start recognising certain foods or drinks as treats, creating psychological links that are very hard to break. In times of stress, or when we feel low, we often then turn to these for comfort, such as chocolate, or even alcohol. But these rarely actually make us feel better, often leading instead to feelings of guilt.

Exercise, on the other hand, helps relieve stress, improves mood and sleeping patterns, reduces cancer risk, and can lead to improved self-confidence. And it doesn't have to be intense – just a brisk walk in fresh air can do the world of good for the body and mind!

Being more aware of such influences will help you make healthier choices towards reducing your risk of cancer. Find out more about our Cancer Prevention Recommendations.

Sarah Toule | 01 April 2016