Are You a Reactive Eater?

Intuitive eating
Mental health
couple qui mange du popcorn avec des boissons gazeuses en écoutant un film au cinéma

Does going to the cinema for you mean popcorn, or does watching television mean snacking? Sometimes, just being in a particular environment or being exposed to a certain food is enough to trigger this desire to eat. At this point, eating is not done out of hunger, but as a reflex. Is it possible to change these reflexes? The answer is yes, and here's how:

1. Identify What Triggers Your Reflexes

By noting (on your phone or on paper) the location and/or people, as well as the foods that you associate with them, you will be able to identify these factors that trigger this desire to eat. Thus, when you are exposed to a similar situation, you will be able to better predict your behaviours and food choices, while knowing how to react in the future.

2. Change the Environment or Stimulus

Have you ever heard of "Pavlov's reflex"? Used in several fields, including psychology, this accidental discovery was made by the doctor and physiologist, Ivan Pavlov. While conducting research on the salivation of dogs, he discovered that by repeatedly exposing them to the sound of a bell presented with a piece of meat; in the long run, the sound of the bell ended up making the dogs salivate in the absence of the piece of meat. In the same vein, the reflex of grabbing popcorn when going to the cinema is acquired if it is done repeatedly; therefore, it can be modified:

• By making sure not to be hungry before doing an activity, we avoid succumbing to the temptations of an empty stomach. Having a snack that combines a source of carbohydrates (a piece of fruit, for example) AND a source of protein (cheese or nuts, for example) before going to the cinema will help to desensitize you to the urge to grab popcorn.

• Then, by replacing the food (popcorn with water, for example), or the environment (the cinema with another activity like a walk, a sport, or a relaxing activity), it becomes possible to reeducate our reflexes.

3. Listen to Your Hunger

Learn to recognize and respect the signals sent by your body. When you don't feel any tension in your stomach, it means that you haven't been hungry for a few bites already. If a "neutral" sensation is sent to you by your stomach, it means your body is satisfied. At these times, your reflex should be to stop eating. This will allow you to respect the signal being sent and be more sensitive to it in the future. To guide you and help you better analyze and understand the different levels of hunger sent by your body, follow and pay attention to the sensations indicated in the "listening to my hunger scale".

Would you like to know what kind of eater you are? Take our quiz at

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist