We come in contact with food cues, people, chemical cocktails, and special circumstances every day that add up to the perfect storm. If the lighting is just right and the food served on a plate is larger than your head, you may be in for an overindulging dinner. By learning how to read nutrition labels and redesign your environment, you’ll be able to change the way you consume.

Women between the ages of 19 to 30 need to consume 2,000 calories a day, while men of the same age need 2,400 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Unfortunately, in the United States, the reality is more than 69 percent of adults 20 years and older are either overweight or obese. When you gain weight, it’s because you’re eating more calories than your body can burn. After years of overeating, your body’s metabolism, responsible for burning and converting calories from food to energy, slows down. However, sometimes there's something more biological and mysterious going on inside of the body, such as Prader-Willi syndrome, a complex genetic condition that causes an insatiable appetite, eventually leading to death. 

For otherwise healthy humans, one unhealthy meal isn’t going to make you overweight, just like one healthy meal isn’t going to make you fit. However, there are ways to develop habits over time by exposing yourself to more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and any vitamins your body needs. Science is increasingly finding not all is created equal in terms of DNA and metabolic rates, which means we need to tailor diets to our bodies’ needs. Most people can’t maintain a diet for more than a week, according The National Mindless Eating Challenge, which means a lifestyle revolution is necessary for success. Uncover these hidden hunger cues below and take back control of your life.

1. Fructose Mind Control

A recent study published in the journal PNAS found the commonly added sugar found in processed foods plays a role in the brain’s reward processing. Researchers gave half of the study’s participants cherry-flavored drinks sweetened with fructose and the other half the same drink, but sweetened with glucose. Through brain scans they saw it manipulated the brain into taking action on appetite. People who drank fructose — the body’s least preferred sugar energy source — also chose food rewards over money.

2. Way Too Many Options

The more food brands you have access to, the less healthy you are likely to eat, according to new study published in PLOS ONE. Out of the 200 people researchers interviewed, the people who ate a wide variety of pizza brands were more likely to say pizza isn’t filling in general. They also eat more because of it. The number of brands available in grocery stores has been increasing since the 1970s, and with it comes the constant consumer comparison. With so many options, the shopper will think there’s always something better out there, leading to dissatisfaction (or a stomach that seems less full than it should be).

“It would appear that this high variability of food items makes it more difficult for people to learn about food and manage their consumption, which exposes a new feature of Western diets and which has potential public health implications,” said the study’s lead author Charlotte Hardman, a professor from the University of Liverpool.

3. Plate Size

Researchers at Cornell University’s Food Brand Lab found people will overserve themselves if they use a large plate and underserve themselves when they use a small plate. It doesn’t stop at the plate, though; package size can also influence a person to eat more or less depending on its size. People will learn how to make room for more when there is more offered, according to the lab.

4.Temperature, Lighting, and Sound

Surrounding us are environmental cues to increase our volume of consumption. According to a study published by food scientist Brian Wansink, the atmospheric ambient characteristics immediately influence a diner’s eating environment. People tend to consume more when they’re in a cold room as opposed to a hot room. In prolonged cold temperatures more energy is needed to warm and maintain the body’s core temperature, so it tells the body to consume more food. Dim or soft lighting increases how long you take to eat and the amount of food you wind up eating. Soft music paces the eater to slow down their rate of consumption, increasing the duration of the meal and ultimately leading them to consume more food.

5. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

The infamous flavor enhancer, most commonly added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups, processed meats, and even classic Doritos chips has been used for decades. The Food and Drug Administration has classified the food ingredient as generally safe, but it still remains controversial and makes you want to eat more. It activates the umami tongue receptors and intensifies the meaty, savory flavor of food. It balances, blends, and rounds the perception of other tastes and is the reason one chip never seems to be enough.

6.Costco, BJs, and Sam’s Club Memberships

In the book Mindless Eating, author Wansink warns of the dangers of buying foods wholesale in bulk. Because most bulk foods come in large, single open containers, you’re more likely to eat more from the huge containers. It’s like setting up a booby trap for yourself, he says. The convenience of the large container, lack of threat of running out, and long-term savings from buying in bulk all lead to more consumption. Instinctually, humans will conserve their food rations when there is less of it — without the threat of running out, it becomes a free for all.  

Sources: Hardman CA, Brunstrom JM, Ferriday D, Kyle L, and Rogers PJ. So Many Brands and Varieties to Choose from: Does This Compromise the Control of Food Intake in Humans? PLOS ONE. 2015.

Page KA, Luo S, Monterosso JR, and Sarpelleh K. Differential effects of fructose versus glucose on brain and appetitive responses to food cues and decisions for food rewards. PNAS. 2015.

Wansink B. Environmental Factors That Increase The Food Intake And Consumption Volume Of Unknowing Consumers. Annual Review Nutrition. 2015.

Wansink B, Kaipainen K, Payne CR. Mindless Eating Challenge: Retention, Weight Outcomes, and Barriers for Changes in a Public Web-Based Healthy Eating and Weight Loss Program. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2015.