The Slim Down

Six hidden causes of overeating

© Rex FeaturesSo we all know that there's no mystery to weight gain and that if we eat more calories than we need, we'll get fatter — it's simple science. 

The art, however, lies in knowing what causes us to overeat in the first place  and doing something about it.  Of course, there are a great many reasons why we over-consume: everything from boredom and loneliness through to stress, low self-esteem and plain old bad habits - but what about the hidden overeating triggers that lurk within your home or work? 

Here are just a few of them.

1. Lighting

According to researchers at the University of California, dieters eat more in a dimly lit room than they do in a bright environment so take down the nets, turn up your dimmer switches, pull back the curtains and go easy on all those candle lit dinners for two.

[Related feature: How to lose a stone in a month without crash dieting]

2. Storage

According to Professor Wansink, author of 'Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think', the places that we choose to store our food can have a big effect on our fatness.  Placing healthy foods within your line of sight in your fridge will make you three times more likely to eat them.  That's because foods we can easily see and access are more likely to be consumed than those that are tucked away.  Turn this to your advantage by keeping the fruit bowl in the middle of your kitchen table and a bottle of fresh water topped up in your bag or car at all times.

3. Colour

Believe it or not, something as simple as colour can have a big effect on your appetite.  Researchers at the University of Winnipeg found that putting your food on a blue plate or simply adding a blue table cloth to your table will automatically reduce the amount you eat and eating in a blue room reduces calorie intake by over a third.

4. Glassware

In pubs, bars, restaurants and even our homes, wine glasses have doubled in size.  Not so long ago most wine glasses were designed to serve 125ml of wine.  Now, the trend is for much larger glasses that serve 250ml — that's a quarter of a litre or a third of a bottle.

Professor Wansink also points out that short, fat tumblers can cause us to drink more than longer, thinner glasses too so beware.

5. TV

Want to consistently lose two pounds of body fat a month without dieting? You can - just switch off your TV during meal times.  Researchers at Cornell University found that eating in front of the box distracts us from recognising when we have had enough making us far more susceptible to over eating.

6. Crockery and cutlery

Something as simple as swapping from a 12-inch to a 10-inch plate can make a big difference to your waistline.  Studies show we eat almost as much with our eyes as with our mouths so we are likely to feel just as full when eating off a smaller plate as we would from a larger one.  The same is true for the cutlery you use.  One study found that switching to a teaspoon instead of a desert spoon caused people to automatically eat 14% fewer calories.