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Understanding food cues

February 25, 2021

How often do you pay attention to food cues? Do you understand what causes you to reach for a snack or a second portion of dinner? Food cues are any kind of stimuli that trigger a food-related response and can include “viewing or smelling of food stimuli, advertisements, or any cues or situations associated with food-related memories.” For instance, this would include a fast-food commercial that plays during your favorite television show at night and encourages you to order up some French fries and a cheeseburger for delivery. Food cues, when listened to over hunger cues, can put you at risk of developing obesity.

Mindless eating

Food cues cue you to eat whether or not you are actually hungry. This encourages mindless eating behaviors. Because you aren’t hungry and you aren’t really paying attention to how much you are eating, mindless eating is associated with weight gain. If you are wondering why you can’t seem to be losing weight when you follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly, excessive snacking due to food cues may be the culprit.

Awareness — four types of food cues

Food cues present themselves in a variety of ways, and it’s important to understand how they present themselves so you can get to the heart of what triggers you to eat when you aren’t hungry. Cues may be visual, auditory, olfactory, or mental. A visual cue could be a picture of a delicious meal or a commercial for a restaurant. Auditory cues are anything you may hear related to food, whether it’s the sound of bacon frying or coffee percolating. Olfactory cues come into play when you smell food. Mental cues often have to do with your emotions. You may be cued to eat because you are stressed, bored, sad, or feeling out of control. Food cues are quite literally everywhere. You can’t watch television without seeing them and every time your coworker orders takeout, you’re cued too.

Make a list of the food cues that impact you the most. For instance, perhaps you aren’t impacted by olfactory cues, but a picture of food makes you salivate. If mental food cues affect you the most, determine which emotion triggers you the most. Do you grab a candy bar when you’re sad and stressed? Does boredom send you running to the kitchen? Understanding the emotional that cues you can help you overcome that response.

Ignore the external

It’s important to understand that food cues are predominantly external. Instead of listening to external stimuli that tells you when to eat, pay attention the internal hunger response. That may be a growling stomach, hunger pangs, or lightheadedness and tiredness associated with lack of food. Similarly, pay attention to internal cues as you eat so that you can stop eating when you are full. Your brain takes some time to process, so eat slowly.

Once you are aware of what is cueing you, take some time to think about whether or not you’re truly hungry, or if you’re just responding to an advertisement. Give it a few minutes; oftentimes, if you do not indulge your craving immediately, it will go away. Drink some water and distract yourself with another activity to take your mind off the food cue response.

For tips on mindful eating, check out our blog.

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Important Lap-Band® System Safety Information

The ReShape Lap-Band Systems are approved for adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or higher, or a BMI of at least 30 with health conditions related to obesity, who have not seen success with other weight loss methods, like supervised diet, exercise, and behavior modification programs. Choosing this surgery means committing to changes in eating habits for the long term.

The Lap-Band procedure is not approved for individuals under 18 yo, those with conditions that may make them poor surgical candidates or lead to poor results, such as inflammatory or cardiopulmonary diseases, problems with the stomach and digestion, symptoms or family history of autoimmune disease, scarring of the liver, individuals unable or unwilling to follow the necessary dietary restrictions, individuals with alcohol or drug addictions, or those currently pregnant. Individuals who become pregnant after band placement may require deflation of their bands.

The ReShape Lap-Band Systems, a long-term tool, may need to be adjusted if you get pregnant, sick, or malnourished. Be careful with anti-inflammatory drugs as they could make the band wear away. Like any surgery, placement of the Lap-Band may have complications such as risks from drugs and methods used, general surgery risks, how well your body handles a foreign object, or in rare cases, risk of death.

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with metabolic and bariatric surgery that you and your doctor should discuss. Potential risks associated with the Lap-Band include nausea, vomiting, heartburn, stomach blockage, constipation, swallowing difficulty, diarrhea, abnormal stools, abdominal pain, weakness, incision pain, infection, fever, hernia, chest pain, band movement, stomach pouch expansion, unusual healing, pain at the port site, port movement, and/or hair loss. Additional surgery might be needed. Losing weight quickly could lead to complications requiring more surgery. 

Talk to your doctor, and/or visit our website at for more information on its benefits and risks.