Session 8

Taking Charge of What’s Around You

Our environment and the people around us can help or hurt our efforts to achieve a healthy lifestyle. By recognizing the triggers or cues that prompt our behaviors, we can increase our chance for success.
Portrait of senior waiter helping customer to choose food at self service restaurant

Session 8-1

How Cues Can Trigger Our Health Behaviors

We often eat or drink because something triggers our desire for food. These food triggers or cues affect what and how much we eat. Similarly activity cues affect how much we move.

Some cues are positive and lead to healthy behaviors. Other cues are a problem and lead us to overeat or be less active.


When we respond to a cue in the same way over and over again, we build a habit. When faced with that cue, we respond without thinking. Once a habit forms, it becomes hard to break. Changing behavior requires us to take control and stay in control.
Some common cues that affect our health behaviors are:

Environmental (ie: the weather, time of day, where you are)


What we see & smell


How we feel physically (ie: hungry, tired)


What we are thinking


How stressed we feel


Certain activities (ie: watching TV)

However most cues are social in that they are in some way related to other people.

Social Cues

Social cues are situations that trigger us to behave in a certain way when we’re around other people. Many of these are food or activity cues.

For example, watching a football game with friends is a social cue for many people to eat snacks and drink beer or soda. Social cues sometimes make it hard to stay on track with healthy goals.

AI’s Story


Al loves getting together with his family. But he finds it hard to eat well at these events. He has trouble finding healthy choices. And his mother always pushes her empanadas on him. He doesn’t want to hurt her feelings, so he takes just one.

Change Can Happen!

Think about it. Food cues are all around us, and often we are unaware of how strong they are. The first step to overcoming the habit of eating too much or the wrong things is to become aware of our food cues and activity cues. You can learn to take charge of those cues, so they cannot stand in the way of meeting your goals.

Not all cues are problems, however. Some cues will help you eat healthier and be more active. So the goal to make healthy lifestyle change is to reduce your problem cues and add helpful ones.
Remember it takes time to break old habits and build new, healthier ones. Change does not happen overnight.

Take a moment to think about the food and activity cues that are helpful and those that may be derailing your efforts to be healthy.