Eating Out of Habit

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It’s important to realize just how ingrained habits can be. For example, someone who has been eating the same breakfast cereal for the past 10 or 20 years will require a big effort to break the habit.

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov is widely known for describing the phenomenon now known as classical conditioning in his experiments with dogs. He did a very simple experiment where he conditioned a dog to salivate to the sound of a bell.

Initially when the bell was rung the dog was fed. Over a period of time, the dog began to associate the bell with being fed and would start to salivate in anticipation of receiving food.

Pavlov found that after a period of conditioning he could then ring the bell and illicit this response regardless of whether the dog was fed or not. What this shows is that eating in response to certain stimuli is a fairly easy habit to get into.

The types of food we eat and our eating behavior is predominately habitual. We eat the same types of food at the same time and in the same way because it’s learned behavior.

The way food looks, smells, tastes, and the texture can have a major influence on whether we choose to eat it or not. The way in which food connects to our senses is widely used in food marketing to increase sales.

Our mood, emotional status, and psychological well-being will all affect the food we chose to eat. We can also be affected by advertising campaigns, celebrity endorsements, fad diets, food scares, and other external influences. Social influences including our upbringing, cultural background, religion, and the influence of peer pressure from loved ones, colleagues, and friends are also likely to affect our food choices as well as income and work schedule.

Habits can also be formed through necessity. In some areas in the USA, there are so-called food deserts. The USDA defines a food desert as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.” Food deserts have very little whole food providers, especially fruits and vegetables. Instead, they are heavy on local stores that provide a host of processed, sugar, and fat-laden foods that are known contributors to the nation’s obesity epidemic.

There are many factors that influence our eating habits. Studies have shown that the food we eat has a big influence on our health and well-being. Whenever possible make it a habit to choose healthful whole food.