Studies have shown that people’s food intake is susceptible to their surroundings. Simple visual clues like plate size, room lighting, room color and the eating behavior and body size of dining companions were shown to affect the portion and size of food consumption.

While the studies are numerous and supported by a wide range of industries such as restaurants, psychology and color researchers, the findings are remarkably similar when it comes to the impact of color on your life and its effect on your behaviors.

Shape, colors, lighting, music and even the size of things such as bowls and dining companions play a dramatic role in your food intake and mood. The results also strongly support long-held Feng Shui principles of dos and don’ts when it comes to the use of color and design in your surroundings to create balance, peace and calm.

Room Color and Surroundings

As you visit your favorite restaurants or fast food haunts over the next several weeks pay close attention to their color scheme to see how it influences your food choices and mood. If their predominant colors are red, yellow or orange beware. Those colors stimulate the appetite, encourage you to eat more and eat faster. They want you to purchase more in larger sizes, eat and leave. They tend to be noisier and louder because these colors also increase the levels of anxiety and aggravation. The more red involved the higher the levels of aggression, the more yellow that is involved the higher the anxiety levels and the sooner you want to leave. Think red chili peppers and hot yellow peppers and you get the picture.

When you apply this information to your own home it becomes quickly obvious that these colors would be a poor choice for dining rooms and kitchens where you want to maintain balance, calm and enjoy nourishing food in a nurturing atmosphere. Even if it means going against nouveau trends of painting the dining room or one wall of the dining room red, don’t do it.

Earthy tones, beige and warm browns make a room feel grounded, a bit luxurious and provide a calming atmosphere. These colors have no effect on the appetite and are often the same colors as the food we consume such as bread, meat and beans. This is the ultimate neutral for the appetite and table conversation. Just don’t go too dark as the room will become too somber and dreary, creating more of a foreboding atmosphere rather than an engaging atmosphere conducive to savoring every morsel of your meal and the attention of your companion.

If you wish for more control of what you eat and how much, consider using light green in the surroundings. Green is said to aid digestion, help you focus and be more relaxed. Think of all the markets that us the color green in their ambiance and title description. Rather than stimulating the appetite and rushing out the door, you can leisurely dine, relax over a cup of tea with a companion and slowly enjoy a peaceful conversation while allowing your food to digest. Green is one of the best energy colors for a dining room or kitchen, providing all the right color energy for physical and emotional health.

The one color most calming for a room but least used in restaurants and home dining rooms is blue. It may be a tranquil color as long as it is not too dark or too bright but it is truly an appetite suppressant and discourages one from eating anything served on a blue plate. While this colors appears a lot in nature making it a very user friendly color it does not appear in food very much other than blueberries. When was the last time you saw a set of blue dishes or fine china other than blue willow or Wedgewood? Or perhaps recall eating the “blue plate” special which dates back to the 1920s -1950s, where it was the low priced daily special, rotating the meat every day and served with three vegetables. Nourishing it was, appetizing and appealing, it wasn’t -- and still isn't.

Lighting, Containers and Companions

The same rules apply to background lighting and music. The lighter and brighter or the noisier the room the less time you want to spend there and eat there. However, candle light and dimmed lighting encourages you to linger and relax but also to eat more (think: second helpings, extra drinks and dessert). Candlelight is a wonderful natural light for dining as long as you are aware of the downsides. Normal full spectrum lighting works best along with either peaceful music or the gentle bubble of a small waterfall.

A simple catchphrase to be aware of is “we taste first with our eyes.” What we see makes a difference in how much we eat and how our emotions will be satiated. For example, research showed that the more colors available of an item to eat the more you will eat. If you place a bowl of M&Ms in the standard seven colors in front of a group of people, on average they each will eat 56 pieces. However, if you add three more colors to the bowl, each person will consume 99 pieces. Other simple things to be aware of are of that people will do:

• drink more from short fat glasses than tall skinny one
• eat more from 12” plates than 10” plates
• eat more snacks if several small serving bowls are used instead one large one
• eat more ice cream or popcorn if larger bowls are used
• want second helpings or larger pieces of pizza or cake if served on large plates
• eat more food when dining with a companion that is overweight or regularly overeats

Balance in weight maintenance and emotional well-being are directly linked to finding balance in your surroundings, especially those areas where food is prepared and consumed. Moderation in this case applies to more than just a serving size.

© Pat Heydlauff, all rights reserved 2013

Author's Bio: 

Pat Heydlauff, a “flow of focus” expert, speaker and consultant designs home and workplace environments that unleash the flow of focus and maximize performance while creating balance and increasing prosperity. She is author of the forthcoming book, Engage, Unleash the Power of Focus and published books, Feng Shui, So Easy a Child Can Do It and Selling Your Home with a Competitive Edge. Contact her at 561-799-3443 or