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Understanding Food Cues

People at outdoor party serving food

When it comes to finding success with the Lap-Band®, regular exercise, proper hydration, good sleep, and a healthy diet are all part of the puzzle. Eating healthier isn’t just about portion control or getting the right nutrients—though that is an important part of it. Improving your diet also means working through unhealthy eating habits.

Without realizing it, you may be subconsciously influenced to eat certain things or at certain times, whether you’re hungry or not. These subconscious triggers are called food cues, and unmanaged, they can prevent your weight-loss success with the Lap-Band.

What are Food Cues?

Food cues are the subconscious associations we make with our food, usually formed through memory and habit. These triggers trip our body’s urge to eat, whether hungry or not, and they can lead to mindless or bored eating if not reigned in.

In some cases, these triggers are visual, like a commercial for food or a billboard advertising treats at a fast food restaurant . Food cues can also be auditory cues: the jingles of restaurants or the sound of food cooking. Our sense of smell is the strongest sense tied to memory, which is why it also creates the strongest food cues—think of the smell of fresh fries or a grilling burger. Even our memories can create food cues, like the meal of a first date or the traditional snacks you eat when hanging out with friends or family.

Understanding Food Cues

An important part of achieving healthy, lasting weight loss with the Lap-Band is understanding your personal food cues. Pay attention to your triggers. When you feel the urge to eat, ask yourself: “Do I really feel hungry?” If the answer is no, try to identify what the trigger was. Understanding and identifying your food cues will make them easier to recognize and resist, stopping mindless eating in its tracks.

Food Cues vs. Hunger Cues

It’s important to remember that food cues are external. When it comes to determining if you’re hungry, pay attention to the internal instead. Your body’s physical signs of hunger are the best way to tell if you’re hungry or being tricked by a food cue.

Many people who struggle with obesity find themselves out of touch with the physical signs of hunger. Reconnecting with your hunger cues can be a valuable tool during your weight-loss journey. Look for:

  • “Growling” stomach
  • Headache
  • Light-headedness
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Shakiness

For any weight-loss journey, examining unhealthy relationships with food is a must. The Lap-Band Program is more than just the procedure—we also aim to help our patients build healthy habits that will serve them during their weight-loss journey and beyond. To learn more about the Lap-Band Program and the qualifications for surgery, visit the Illinois Bariatric Center website.

Beth Reeser