The Psychology Of How To Feel Full When Losing Weight

2012-01-12 | |
Last updated: 2012-01-12

With the constant bombardment from public health officials and the media, it should come as no surprise that being either overweight or obese is among the most significant predictors of poor health. Obesity can lead to diabetes, liver damage, some forms of cancer and is even considered a risk factor for developing asthma. While the glaringly obvious solution to avoiding these health problems is to lose weight, the ongoing success of weight loss companies and surgical weight loss treatments makes it clear that losing weight is exceedingly challenging.

As anyone who has tried to lose weight can tell you, the process of shedding the fat can be an extremely difficult one with our bodies working ever harder to retain the weight while we struggle to lose it. Essentially when dieting, we are attempting to deny the survival instincts that have ensured the continuation of the human race for several million years. Simply put, losing weight means constantly fighting the gnawing feeling being created by our brains to tell us that we are not full.

Fortunately, medical research continues to find ways in which we can trick our brains into feeling fuller while eating less.

How Do Our Brains Decide When We Are Full?

While we might think that feeling full is simply the result of consuming enough food and calories, the feeling of fullness or satiety is more complex than that. If the number of calories we ate directly controlled the feeling of fullness, obesity and weight gain would not be the problem that they are now. We would simply eat what our bodies require and stop when our bodies told us that we have had enough. Given that many overweight people only feel full when they have consumed a large number of calories, we know that the feeling of fullness is at least partially a conditioned response.

From other research, we also know that how full we feel is dependent on perception. In a 2005 study from Cornell University, researchers tested how perception affects the feeling of fullness. In their study, researchers used a “bottomless” soup bowl that they could secretly continue filling while the study participants ate. What the researchers found was that, on average, people eating from the bottomless bowls consumed 73% more soup than people eating from regular bowls. At the same time, those eating 73% more did not believe that they had eaten more.

Clearly the participant’s brains were judging from the bowl size how much they needed to eat before feeling full.

In a related study, researchers from the University of Bristol further demonstrated how how our thoughts affect feelings of fullness. By showing study participants a larger or smaller bowl of fruit before making them a smoothie, researchers were able to affect the duration of time before the people felt hungry again after consuming the smoothie. In all cases, the smoothies were the same size but people who thought they had eaten more took longer to become hungry again. In this case, their memories were affecting the cues to be hungry.

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Category: Disease Prevention, General Health, Health Risks, Medical Research

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