Who Should and Who Shouldn’t Eat Before Going Grocery Shopping

Image of groceries in a basket.


A conventional wisdom is that you should never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Intuitively, this makes sense: if you’re already full when you go to buy food, you’ll be less tempted to buy extra food items. However, studies on the topic discovered that this is not always the case. Rather, while this is true for people who are not overweight, people who are overweight sometimes buy more food if they eat before shopping.


What the research shows us

Studies show that for most people, eating before going grocery-shopping is a good idea:

  • One study found that short-term food deprivation, in terms of not eating for a few hours, leads people to buy more high-calorie products, such as candy and salty snacks.
  • Another study found similar results, so that when people are hungry, they are interested in buying more food items compared to when they are full.

However, neither one of these studies differentiated between overweight and normal-weight participants. On the other hand, studies which did examine the shopping patterns of overweight participants compared to participants with a “standard” weight, showed that there is a significant difference between the two groups:

  • A study which looked at purchasing behavior in a large supermarket found that people with a standard weight tend to purchase more food when they are hungry, while overweight people tend to purchase less food.
  • A different study found similar results, which showed that “normal individuals bought more food if they were deprived than they did if they had recently eaten. Overweight individuals actually bought more food if they had recently eaten than they did if deprived.”

Researchers are not entirely certain what leads to this difference. One suggestion is that for people with a standard weight, increased hunger leads to increased impulse buying, as evident in the fact they purchase more items than they expect to. Conversely, when overweight people eat before grocery shopping, they might become more focused on food, which preemptively increases their intention to buy extra food. This is reflected in the fact that people with a standard weight tend to overshoot their estimated bill when buying food on an empty stomach, while overweight participants tend to decrease both their estimated bill as well as the amount of food they buy in practice.


Disagreements, variations, and what works for you

It’s important to note that there are various discrepancies between different studies on the subject, possibly due to different methodologies (for examples, see this paper, this paper, or this one, all of which found slightly-conflicting results).

It’s also difficult to determine whether the fact that overweight people were hungrier is the reason why they purchased less food. It’s possible that they were more likely to be dieting, which explains both their hunger, as well as their reduced intention to purchase food (although one study did account for this and showed that the effect still appears). In addition, there was also variation in terms of how hungry participants were, and in some cases there was a difference between how low levels of hunger affected people, compared to high levels of hunger.

Overall, this means that we can’t be sure that if you’re overweight then you’re likely to buy more food if you’re full, but it certainly raises the possibility that this might be the case, and that the general notion of “never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach” isn’t necessarily true for everyone.

In addition, it’s important to remember that there is always individual variation. Some people with a normal weight might be motivated similarly to people who are overweight, and vice versa. Furthermore, the definition of ‘overweight’ is also not entirely clear, and can vary according to different sources.

Therefore, the best way to know for sure is to experiment yourself, and see what works better for you. One way to do this is to keep grocery shopping as you normally do, while paying attention to what you buy, and to how hungry you are at the time. It might be immediately obvious that when you’re hungry, you tend to buy tons of snacks. In cases when it is not so obvious, you can keep receipts from your purchases, and write on each one how hungry you were when buying the food.

You can also try to actively alternate between going grocery shopping while hungry and while full, and then compare the amount and type of food that you buy each time. To ensure that your results are accurate, try to minimize the influence of external variables, such as going shopping with other people versus going alone. It’s best to do this a few times in order to reduce the influence of these variables (which are known as confounds), but it’s likely that after one or two times you’ll already have a pretty clear answer.

Overall, it’s easy to point to the findings of just one paper, and popular media loves to simplify things and spread convenient generalizations. As you saw however, the truth is more complicated than that. At the end of the day, the important thing is to be aware of this complexity, and to understand that the most important thing is to find out what works for you.


Summary and conclusions

  • People who are not overweight generally tend to make fewer impulse purchases when they go grocery shopping on a full stomach.
  • Conversely, people who are overweight tend to actually buy less food if they go grocery shopping when hungry. This has been attributed to a reduction in the amount of food that these participants intend to buy.
  • There is variation between different studies, and between the individuals who participated in each study.
  • The best solution to finding what works for you, is to experiment and see which type of purchases you make when you’re hungry, and which ones you make when you’re full.


How to Create Image Captions that People Can Actually Read

People often pick the wrong font-color when creating image captions, or when pairing the color of a text with the color of its background in general. Doing this makes the text illegible, which means people will struggle to read what you wrote, and will likely decide to just not read it at all.

Fortunately, this issue is easy to fix. The following examples will show you which common mistakes to avoid, and which guidelines you should follow in order to make your texts and image captions readable and aesthetically pleasing.


What not to do

Avoid placing light-colored text on a light background:

A light font on a light background is bad


Similarly, avoid placing dark-colored text on a dark background:

A dark font on a dark background is bad


Avoid relying only on color contrasts between the text and the background to ensure readability:

Relying only on color contrast is bad


Doing this generally leads to text which is annoying to read, and which can be illegible to color-blind people in some cases. It can work sometimes if you know what you’re doing, but you’re almost always better off not relying on it.


What you should do

Rely primarily on a light-dark contrast. For example, you can pair a dark-colored text with a light background:

A dark font on a light background is readable


You can also pair a light-colored text with a dark background:

A light font on a dark background is readable


If readability is your main concern, or if the background color is not consistent throughout, you can use a white text with a black outline, which can be easily read on any background:

White text with a black outline is readable on any background


Similarly, you can also use a white text with a black highlight, which is also readable on any background, and which might look better than a black outline in some cases:

White text with a black highlight is readable on any background


Keep in mind that since you’re essentially creating your own background for the text when you use a highlight, you can choose other color combinations besides white and black, as long as you maintain a light/dark contrast between the text and its highlight.


Summary and conclusions

  • To ensure that your image captions are legible, maintain a light/dark contrast between the text and the background. This means that you should avoid placing a light-colored text on a light background, or a dark-colored text on a dark background.
  • In addition, don’t rely only on color contrasts between the text and the background to achieve readability.
  • Try to pair light-colored texts with dark backgrounds, and dark-colored texts with light backgrounds.
  • If readability is your main concern, the best option is to use white text with a black outline, since it’s legible on all backgrounds.
  • You can also use white text with a black highlight, which might look better than a black outline in some cases. In this case, you can also choose other color combinations besides white and black, as long as you maintain a light/dark contrast between the text and its highlight.


How to Catch Mistakes When Proofreading Texts

Catching mistakes when proofreading texts.


Did you ever spend hours going over a document again and again, and found yourself automatically skipping over whole words and sentences, because you already read it so many times that your brain just goes on autopilot?

Proofreading is an important but tedious part of writing. The problem is that since your brain already knows what to expect, it tends to partially autocomplete texts that you read, and shows you what it thinks should be there, rather than what is actually there. This is a part of our tendency to conduct good-enough processing, where we subconsciously prefer to misinterpret and “autocorrect” texts when the true content is problematic for some reason.

While there is no perfect way to solve this, there are some tips which can help you proofread texts more effectively. They all share the same overall goal: to trick your brain into thinking that the text you’re encountering is new, and therefore to avoid the ‘autopilot mode’ which prevents you from noticing mistakes.


Change the font

Changing the font is one of the easiest ways to make a text look distinctly different. The choice of font is up to you; in general, the more distinct the font, and the more different it is from the original font, the better. However, make sure to account for legibility, and use something that is convenient for you to read.

Two suggestions for possible fonts are:

  • Comic Sans– a highly-informal font, which works great because it looks so distinct from anything you might write in. (Note: if you are already writing professional texts in Comic Sans, stop.)
  • DPCustomMono2– a font which was developed by the proofreading community, in order to help readers spot common typographical errors.


Sample fonts for proofreading texts Arial, Times New Roman, Comic Sans MS, and DPCustomMono2.


Read it aloud

Read the paper aloud to yourself. This is especially useful in spotting problems with the flow of the text, since it roughly shows you what the text will sound like to the person reading it. If you can find someone to read it to, that can also help.


Have it read to you

Having someone read the text to you is another great way to spot errors. The easiest way to do this is by having your computer read it aloud. There are several methods for doing this, and your choice should depend on the length of the text and your personal preferences. The most common methods are:

  • Online software- an easy plug-and-play solution, since there are a lot of free options that you can take advantage of (such as Google Translate).
  • Downloadable software- search for “speech synthesizer” or “text to speech” software.
  • Built-in word processor/operating system function- to figure out whether this option is available to you and how to activate it, simply look up the name of your word processor/OS together with the relevant keywords (e.g. “text to speech”).


Change the environment

This is less convenient than changing the font, but changing the environment in which you read the text can also help. For example, if you originally wrote the paper on a laptop in your room, you can print it out and read it outside, or go work on a desktop in the library.

Another option is reading it in a different software. For example, if you wrote it in Word, export the draft to PDF and read it like that.


Give it time

The best solution is, of course, to wait as much time as possible between the writing stage and the proofreading stage. While the amount of time you can give it might be limited, remember that even a good night’s sleep can significantly help. If nothing else, even a short break can allow you to clear your head a little.


Summary and conclusions

  • Catching mistakes at the proofreading stage is difficult because you’re already familiar with the text, so your brain goes on a sort of autopilot mode, and misses obvious things.
  • To avoid this, there are things you can do to help trick your brain into thinking that the text you’re reading is new.
  • These methods include changing the font, changing the reading environment, reading the text aloud, and having the text read to you (generally by a computer).
  • In addition, taking time off between the writing and proofreading stage can also help, even if it’s only a small amount of time.