Your mind controls your hunger hormones
When it comes to signaling hunger and fullness, one study shows the mind plays the most important role. Recently, I came across an NPR interview online called “Mind Over Milkshake.” “This makes so much sense!” I said aloud, jumping out of my chair. As someone who passionately studies the mind-body connection of health, this study perfectly illustrates how the mind shapes our physical response to food.
“Labels are not just labels. They evoke a set of beliefs.”
says Amelia Crumb, who conducted the Mind Over Milkshake study. In her study, she gave half the participants milkshakes labeled sensible, guilt-free, fat free and 104 calories. She gave the other group of participants milkshakes labeled indulgence, decadence and 620 calories. The catch? Each milkshake was exactly the same – both options had 300 calories.
Crumb’s results show the powerful effect of the brain over our feeling of fullness. Participants consuming the “light” shake had significantly higher levels of grehlin, a hunger hormone that signals the need for food. Those consuming the “indulgent” shake had significantly lower levels of grehlin, meaning that their milkshake had left them more satisfied on a physiological level.
Those who believed they were drinking the indulgent shake responded as if their bodies had eaten three times more. […] Their grehlin levels dropped three times more.
This video from NPR illustrates the experiment:
If our mind controls our grehlin levels, it means that our mind controls our metabolism. By thinking about our food in different terms, we have the power to improve our metabolism! According to an NPR article and interview with Crumb, metabolism is partly regulated by grehlin levels:
Ghrelin is a hormone secreted in the gut. People in the medical profession call it the hunger hormone. When ghrelin levels in the stomach rise, that signals the brain that it’s time to seek out food.
“It also slows metabolism,” Crum says, “just in case you might not find that food.”
But after your ghrelin rises, and you have a big meal (say a cheeseburger and a side of fries), then your ghrelin levels drop. That signals the mind, Crum says, that “you’ve had enough here, and I’m going to start revving up the metabolism so we can burn the calories we’ve just ingested.” (Source and read more at NPR.org)
Approach your meals with a fulfilling mindset
Is this one reason why dieting doesn’t work? I say yes! This study gives us a reason to believe that when we deprive ourselves and choose foods with non-satiating connotations (light, fat free, etc.), we make ourselves more hungry than if we were to choose satiating options.
No matter what you are eating, avoid thinking about your food in these terms:
- Low fat
- Low calorie
- Low sodium
Instead, try thinking about these benefits of your meal:
- Healthy fats
- Good carbs
- Rich in nutrients
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