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Food & Appetite
Part 2

Hunger and appetite are two different things. Hunger is the physical need for food while appetite is the psychological craving to eat. The difference is the need to eat versus the want to eat. It is possible to have a desire for food even if you are not hungry. That’s why “there is always room for dessert” no matter how satisfied you are after a full meal.

Hunger is driven by internal stimuli like a growling stomach, a gnawing feeling, and lightheadedness. Appetite is driven by external stimuli like the sight and smell of food. These external cues can influence us to eat more than we need.

Visual triggers
Brian Wansink is a consumer psychology expert at the University of Illinois whose studies have proven that visual triggers like larger plates will make people eat more without even realizing it. Conversely, smaller plates will make people consume less. He claims that people lose track of how much they eat because their eyes fool their stomach. Apparently, we need visual cues to remind us that we have eaten enough.

When it comes to drinking glasses, people tend to recognize height more easily than width. Wansink has found that adults will pour 30% to 35% more orange juice if they use a short fat glass than when they use a tall thin glass even if both glasses hold the same amount.

Larger portions = larger appetite
Physiologist Barbara Rolls of Penn State University has done her own research on what stimulates appetite. In one of her studies, lean young men were served different portions of macaroni and cheese for lunch on three separate days. The men ate ten ounces when they were served a 16-ounce portion, 13 ounces when they were given 22 ounces, and 15 ounces when they were handed a 25-ounce serving. In short, the larger the portion served, the more food eaten.

If you control your portion sizes, you can control your appetite. At home, use smaller plates and bowls so you feel like you are eating more. Buy only single size servings of high-calorie food like chocolates and cookies. When watching a movie, buy the smallest size of popcorn. You can always buy another one if you are still hungry. Wansink found that people consume 44% more popcorn if they buy the largest size.

Slow down
Weight-loss experts have long advised people to eat more slowly if they want to eat less. A recent Japanese study of 1,700 young women confirms there is truth to this. Women who took their time while eating reported feeling fuller sooner, making them eat less.

Female participants in an American study lost an average of eight pounds when they consciously ate slowly, chewed thoroughly, and stopped eating when their food no longer tasted as good as when they took their first bite. The control group lost three pounds. Head researcher John Poothullil explained, “Your body intuitively knows how many calories you need and will dampen your taste buds once you’ve had enough”.

But to discern that you have had enough you need to slow down and savor your food. Kelly Brownell, Director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Control, says, “We know from research that when you eat more slowly, the natural satiety response can be triggered and you can feel full sooner and therefore eat less.

Faster music, more bites
People will eat more quickly and finish more food if eating in a fast-paced environment with loud upbeat music and bright lights. In one study, lively background music made participants take five bites per minute and half the group asked for second servings.

People who ate to calming flute music averaged 3.2 bites per minute, took smaller bites and not one asked for a second helping. Most of them also left one-fourth of their food on their plates.

The study implies that if you want to eat less, play relaxing music while you eat. Mealtimes are probably not the right time to play the latest dance tunes.

More variety, more calories
According to a report in the Tufts University Newsletter, human beings are genetically programmed for “sensory specific satiety”. This simply means that if you keep eating the same kind of food, you get sick of eating it.

That’s why you eat more when you eat “family style” in a restaurant where everyone orders something different and you share all the dishes compared to when you order your own main course. This is the reason why you pig out at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Scientists from the University of Buffalo in New York reviewed 39 studies and found that people who were given different choices in a multi-course meal ate 44 percent more than the people who were given the same type of food for each course.

Another study found that people who do not eat a large variety of food (except for fruits and vegetables) have an easier time losing weight. This means it’s okay to have three kinds of fruit available at home but not three kinds of dessert.

Who you eat with can make you eat more
Through several experiments, Rolls has determined that socializing has an effect on how much people eat.

First she found that people ate 44% more when they were with other people than if they ate alone. She believes they may have been distracted by the presence of the other people and didn’t pay attention to how much they are eating.

Second, she found that when participants socialized with friends while eating, they ate 50% more. The biggest difference was with dessert.

Rolls also found that women tend to eat smaller portions when they are dining with a man they find attractive but eat regular-sized portions when they eat with a man they are not physically attracted to. Male participants ate the same amount regardless of whether they found their female dining companion attractive or not.

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