When is the meal over for you? When you lose interest in the meal, or when the plate is empty? Today I discuss the main difference between external versus internal cues with regards to eating and why both can be important to use to help us eat well. 
External Eating Cues: The environment and how it impacts your eating. 
Pros: External cues can help us to eat better by limiting our intake when we are busy or distracted. It can be easier to change your surroundings than change your mind.
Cons: External cues can lead to overeating especially if you eat out of bulk containers. It can lead to a distrust of your body’s ability to self regulate. External cues rely on measuring, portioning or counting.

  • You see a bowl of candies out at the office.
  • You sit at your usual couch when watching TV, you usually have a snack when you sit here.
  • You filled your plate.
  • You have 700 kcal for this meal.
  • You drive by five fast food restaurants on the way home.
  • You see a commercial for cereal.
  • You see a chocolate bar for sale at the gas station.
  • You are socializing in the kitchen.
  • You see a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter.
  • You see leftovers on your kids plate.
  • Your spouse bring chips home and they sit on the counter.
  • You get a large portion of food while eating out.
  • You open the fridge and see leftover pizza on a plate right in front.
  • It’s 12:00 pm – “lunchtime” wether you’re hungry or not.

Instances when it’s appropriate to use external eating cues to help you eat well.

  1. Place pre-cut veggies in a clear container at eye level in the fridge.
  2. Keep counter tops clear of snack foods.
  3. Use small bowls to eat snack foods out of.
  4. You can ask for half your portion to be wrapped up at restaurants.
  5. Using a smaller dinner plates.
  6. Wrap tempting foods in tin foil to disguise them.
  7. Wrap up leftovers (including your children’s).

Internal Eating Cues: You listen to how your body feels physically with regards to eating. 
Pros: When you use your internal cues, you can eat whatever you like and your body is typically able to regulate your caloric intake. No measuring, counting or worrying.
Cons: It can take time to re-learn how to recognize your internal cues if you’ve had a lifetime of de-conditioning.

  • You are starving.
  • You are hungry.
  • You are satisfied.
  • You are full.

Instances when it’s appropriate to use internal eating cues to help you eat well.

  1. Ask yourself if you are truly hungry before you go for snacks.
  2. When you no longer have hunger pangs the meal is over (no matter what’s on your plate).
  3. Pause before the meal and notice how your hunger is impacting your food and portion choices.
  4. Notice how when you eat when not hungry, it’s hard to pay attention to your meal or snack. Distracted eating is not as enjoyable.

So when is the meal over for you?
What impacts your eating decisions?
Share your thoughts!