In the spotlight

Achieving a healthy lifestyle

Unhealthy eating habits are difficult to change. We choose approximately 70% of what we eat while on autopilot. Research into how the environment affects our eating behaviour should lead to new ways to make living a healthy lifestyle easier.

How does the environment influence our eating behaviour?

Over the last few decades, it has become possible to eat at many more locations and times, and there is a much wider selection of food on offer. In such an environment, it is extremely difficult to constantly avoid temptations and to make wise decisions about food. Because we are moving on autopilot and responding intuitively to our environment, the smell of food can easily trigger us to eat even if we are not hungry. Those who are trying to maintain a healthier lifestyle often quickly fall back into old habits.

An unhealthy lifestyle increases the risk of many diseases – including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and various forms of cancer. For most people, however, good health is high on their wish list. Yet very few people are able to follow the guidelines on healthy food. People are simply not managing to eat healthy.

Emely de Vet, Professor of health communication and behavioural change explains, 'The fact that so many people exhibit unhealthy eating habits normalises this behaviour.'

Companies, organisations and individuals also try to influence our behaviour. But what is guiding our eating patterns? Why do people react differently to temptations? Is becoming overweight a normal reaction to an abnormal environment? Have social norms around eating changed? These questions and more are why it is so important to improve our understanding of behavioural changes and to research the influence of the environment.

Emely de Vet is Professor of health communication and behavioural change at Wageningen University & Research. During her inauguration on 24 November 2016, de Vet offered insight into the environment's role in consumer behaviour. See the video below in which de Vet explains her research.

WURtalks: How do you influence behaviour?

Wageningen University & Research researches the effect of the environment on eating behaviour. On Monday 28 October, Emily de Vet (Wageningen University & Research) and Reint Jan Renes (Wageningen University & Research, University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, author of 'Behavioural Change') will speak at the series WURtalks about how to influence your own behaviour. How can you gain insight into your behaviour? What are the best ways to achieve behavioural changes? How can you resist temptations, and how does your environment impact your ability to resist? The WURtalk will be held at the CineMec complex in Ede.