“Mind Over Milkshake” – Think Yourself Full!

think your way full

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:

Think your way full!How grehlin controls your metabolism

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
  • Light
  • Diet

 Instead, try thinking about these benefits of your meal: 

  • Nourishing
  • Healthy fats
  • Filling
  • Satiating
  • Pleasurable
  • Good carbs
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Rich in nutrients

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  1. kate says

    hi, it’s very interesting. maybe this is how breathearianism works, in this way it makes some sense to me. you think that you’re full and you becoming full only because you thought about this. its confusing when you think about it…

  2. Cookies n' Creme says

    So true!!
    About a month ago, I was on vacation with some friends and they wanted to buy me a latte. (Before this I had acually been really hungry) At the counter, my friend ordered a latte made with half&half, explaining to me that it made it really creamy and DELISH. That was fine so, I drank it and…It was REALLY wonderful, decadent, nourishing, FATTY, but you know what? After that I didn’t get hungry again for HOURS! For hours I had a warm, fuzzy and comforting feeling in my tummy. Talk about awesome, huh?!

  3. says

    so interesting! never really thought about this, but it is so true. We are big believers that you have to be happy when you sit down to eat and look at food as fuel.

  4. Mandy says

    How very interesting! It’s pretty cool to see the interaction between our psychology and our physiology. Thanks for sharing. (:

  5. Katie says

    wow.. this is super interesting. Mind over body. Thats the way to go! Think yourself to a healthier lifestyle.. and probably a happier one too.

  6. says

    I have been doing Paleo for about 6 weeks now but still find I crave suger immedietley after eating. It doesn’t seem to matter how many healthy carbs or protein I eat the craving is unstoppable. I cant eat to much in one sitting as it makes my body tired..my weak digestive system. I take enzymes every time I eat and slippery elm every day. Also grape fruit extract for possible SIBO symptoms, have severe stomache bloating and constipation. Tried taking chromium supplements but I found they made me ill. Even taking them with food. Am thinking of trying Nystatin long term suspecting a bad candida overgrowth. I have increased my good fats like butter and coconut oil at every meal too. Have put on 3 kilos! Any suggestions? meg

  7. Matthew Martin says

    I’m very interested in knowing how the results would differ if the experimenter used descriptions only or used calorie count alone versus using both together.

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