I’m working full time over the summer and I’m amazed at the amount of unhealthy eating that goes on in my office. There is food everywhere! Three sandwich vans visit the office before 10:30am and a favourite breakfast is the sausage and egg sandwich.
We have well stocked vending machines, charity and emergency sweets on reception, a range of foreign sweets brought back from holidays and cakes and biscuits brought in because it’s somebody’s birthday, or leaving present. I have also noticed that on Friday’s things go in to overdrive and if you don’t have a treat you feel decidedly left out. Now I’m no angel and I do enjoy the odd packet of beef crisps and once I get a taste for chocolate I always want more, but I don’t have these snacks day in day out.
Research has found that people are eating more frequently, with time intervals between meals having reduced by an hour since 1977. This snacking is not thought to be linked to hunger and satiety but reflects ‘mindless’ or ‘recreational’ eating where people are influenced to eat by a variety of situational and external cues such as food availability, time of day and other people eating.
In my office the tannoy announcements heralding the arrival of food has to some people the same effect as the ringing bell to Pavlov’s salivating dogs.
Snacking is a habit to many people and studies confirm that the more frequently a behaviour is performed, the more likely it is to become habitual.
I work with lots of lovely people but as a nutrition student it’s not easy to watch them eating rubbish because I’m well aware of the link between diet and disease. Next year I’m planning to do primary research for my dissertation on peoples knowledge of the link between diet and disease, but in the meantime perhaps I should invent a vending machine that dispenses just water, fruit, raw veg, nuts and seeds. I wonder how that would go down in my office!
Kong, A. et al (2011) Associations between snacking and weight loss and nutrient intake among post menopausal overweight to obese women in a dietary weight loss intervention. Journal of the American a Dietetic Association.
Aukje, A et al (2012) The power of habits: Unhealthy snacking behaviour is primarily predicted by habit strength. British Journal of Health Psychology 17, 758-770.