External Eating – why do we use the outside world to guide eating?


Why do you eat?

Simple question with a not so simple answer… there are SO many reasons why we eat and these can vary day to day and will change throughout our lives. When we were babies we mostly ate purely when we were hungry – babies tend to be very good at letting it be known they’re hungry. But as we grow older we tend to move away from using our hunger to guide our eating and rely on a whole host of triggers to tell us when and what to eat. This is where external eating comes in.

Subtle triggers

We use all our senses (there are some schools of thought that think we have 10-20 different senses) whether consciously or not to guide our eating behaviours. Our senses tell us so much about what’s going on in our bodies and about how our body interacts with the outside world. You might not always be aware that they are influencing how you eat, but let’s look at some that do just that:

Smell – we can probably all think about a time that we’ve been walking past a bakery and as the aroma of fresh baked pastries and bread wafts towards us suddenly started to salivate, whether we just ate or not.

Sound – have you ever been having a conversation with a friend or colleague or whoever and when the talk has turned to food all of a sudden your stomach starts to niggle? Just talking about food and conjuring up delicious images can cause us to want to eat.


Sight – this is a powerful one as I guarantee you’ve been tempted to eat too much by the sight of a hot, cheesy pizza or shining, gooey chocolate cake.

Touch – the touch of warm, crusty bread as you make lunch or the feel of the soft fuzz on a kiwi can stimulate our hunger.

As well as these there are subtle influencers such as misdirected comments from loved ones like “are you sure you need that extra slice?” We also use these to tell us what to eat, instead of listening to our bodies that might be telling us we do need that extra slice.

The not-so subtle triggers

Then we have the not-so subtle external influencers that surround us day to day that we choose to put in place to tell us what, when and how much to eat. This can be for a host of reasons but commonly because people feel ‘out of control’ with eating or like they have to change their bodies so need help achieving this. Examples of such influencers are meal plans, calorie trackers, articles and videos, clever marketing of food products and many more.


Online tools (e.g. meal planners, weight loss tools) are some of the worst. One shocking example of how bad some of these tools are is when I tested out NOOM which is an online weight loss plan helping people to ‘Lose Weight for Good’. I wanted to see whether online tools that are ‘supposed’ to help make people healthier would have safe-guards in to keep people’s goals realistic.


Clearly this one DID NOT as I was able to get it to make me a plan so that I could end up with a BMI of 7.3 (WTF). DO NOT TRUST THESE SITES – they don’t know you, what you like and dislike, how busy your life is, how much money you have to spend on food etc. And clearly they don’t know anything about healthy relationships with food or bodies.

Basically my point is that there are a heap of variables in our day to day lives that try to tempt us to eat when we’re not hungry, convince us that we need to eat less to be ‘worthy’ or mislead us into unnecessary diets that don’t fit with our lifestyles. Although external eating has its place and can still lead to satisfying enjoyable eating, it’s important to be aware of the pulls for our attention when it comes to food and to say no or yes when it’s right.

Enjoy eating food. Not too much, not too little. Mostly what satisfies you” – Michael Pollan in In Defense of Food: An Eating Manifesto, adapted by Tribole and Resch in Intuitive Eating.

For the keen readers and evidence checkers amongst you

BBC (2014). Psychology: How many senses do we have. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141118-how-many-senses-do-you-have

EUFIC (2014). Why do we eat what we eat: biology of food choice. Available at: https://www.eufic.org/en/food-today/article/why-do-we-eat-what-we-eat-biology-of-food-choice

Houa et al. (2001). External eating, impulsivity and attentional bias to food cues. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2011.01.019


7. Enjoyable eating culture – because food should be enjoyable!

Enjoyable eating culture

Food, diet and eating habits are part of a bigger picture that includes cultural contexts of eating that, in part, inform our behaviours. In order to have a sustainably healthy and enjoyable diet the context of eating should also be taken into consideration. Food should give us pleasure, it’s biological, we can’t (and shouldn’t) deny it, but how we eat our food and who with plays a role in this. In this finale of the 7 principles of sustainable eating I look at what, from my point of view, is one of the most important aspects of food – pleasure.

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Raynaud’s Awareness Month – what it is and what can be done!


So some of you (probably most of you!) might not be aware that February is Raynaud’s awareness month in the UK. Never heard of it? Well look no further as I take a dive into this surprisingly common disorder that affects 1 in 6 people in the UK, most of these being women, including myself (Madi).

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6b. Resource saving housekeeping – Energy, water and all the rest of it


There are countless ways that we can all make small changes to reduce our environmental impact and live our life more simply and kindly. Now I’m not saying that everyone should go and live up a tree, surviving off foraged mushrooms and spear fishing (although that does sound quite nice if you could find a tropical location…). But I know I feel a personal responsibility to, in my own little way, find new, better ways of living my life to minimise precious resource use. As I’ve highlighted in previous posts (To be perfect…or not to be?) nobody can be perfect and shouldn’t be expected to be but making tiny changes, here and there, can add up to big changes if amplified across the population.

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Probiotic Prunes anyone?


So, I wanted to write a blog post all about my recent trip to the Carolinas to visit my boyfriend’s friends and family. Thinking about what to base it on I came up with several options… the amazing array of candy, giant portion sizes and sightings of the Confederate flag to name a few. But I decided to use this post to highlight some of the differences between the UK and this part of America – some examples paint the South in a positive light and some not so much, but there is no judgement being made here just observations about a place I really loved!

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6a. Resource saving housekeeping – Food & Oh How We Waste It


*Globally we waste around 1.6 billion tonnes of food every year*

*Global food waste could potentially rise by a third by 2030*

*More than 50% of food waste in the UK comes from households*

*The average household wastes around £470 of food a year*

To me, these are scary figures and indicative of a problem that really doesn’t seem to be getting much better but also doesn’t have an easy solution. This post is going to be looking at what we as individuals can be doing to help prevent and reduce the travesty of beautiful food being thrown away every day.

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Eating the Mindful Way

shutterstock_168648482Without knowing it my first experience with true mindful eating came one Food Technology class when I was in high school (shout out to Miss Cooke, such a legend!). Dissecting a Mars Bar is how this particular class was sold and it entailed slowly, consciously unwrapping the mars bar and using a scalpel to remove each layer of firm chocolate, sticky caramel and gooey nougat. Paying attention to all details of textures, aromas, sights, flavours and mouth-feel of the chocolate.

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5. Minimally Processed Food Preference (we sure about this…?)


So, this is the one principle of sustainable nutrition that I take the most issue with. Processed foods have received a fair bit of press over recent years and most of it extremely negative. I want to uncover with this post why this might be and present some alternative realities around processed foods.

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4. Choose Fairtrade products (when and if you can!)


When Fairtrade first started to creep into my consciousness (mostly from my amazing mum who has been shouting the good cause since we were kids) it was just another picture on a chocolate wrapper to ignore. But as my interest in where food comes from, sustainability and general interest in trying to be a better person grew I wanted to understand more about what it actually means. Hopefully this post will allow me to share some of what I’ve learnt, mostly through being a coffee and chocolate junkie!

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Why having an SPF in your make up isn’t enough!


Sunscreen is incredibly important in the quest for skin health and the prevention of premature ageing. In practice I constantly hear ‘oh I have an SPF in my foundation’ or ‘I have an SPF 30 in my moisturiser’…sorry guys it’s really not enough. In this post, I’m going to try to convince you that wearing a broad-spectrum Sunscreen every day is definitely in your best interest! Wish me luck…

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