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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Can Knowing When you are Full Really Work?

In recent talk, Dr. Brian Wansink, a consumer psychologist, discussed the idea that dieters don't need WILLPOWER, just use smaller plates and glasses. He also said that people should keep "unhealthy" foods out of the line of sight, and healthier foods in view.

Dr. Wansink believes that we can't rely on our hunger and fullness signals to tell us when to stop eating. He says that there are just too many stimuli and influences on us to keep eating even after we are full.

So, the idea here is to control the things that stimulate us in our environment, rather than relying on internal signals. I have 2 competing thoughts about this.

First, we should, in theory at least, be able to tune in to physical signals about hunger and fullness and stop eating when we are full and satisfied. The other side of this argument is that humans are "hard wired" to eat when food is available. For most of human history, we lived through cycles of feast and famine, and so eating when food was available was a positive trait or thing to do. So, stopping eating when one was full would be to our disadvantage from an evolutionary point of view.

I believe that we must balance these 2 sides of our nature. Stopping when we are full may just be too, too much for the "system" and it might become overwhelmed by all the food available in our environment these days. Perhaps a way to manage our food environment is to do what Dr. Wansink suggests, using smaller plates, cups and glasses.

A very good compromise, I think!


leonsthought said...

This is great! My mother struggles with over eating. She has found a lot of support in a 12 step self help program. I talk in one of my articles about leptin the fullness hormone at

Ellen Glovsky said...

Thanks for your comment. I know that the 12 step fellowships are very powerful and work great for many people. I work with many people who need help from a Registered Dietitian like me. These are based on the idea that reliance on a power greater than yourself can help with problematic behaviors.

Tiffany Youngren said...

So true! I totally agree. I think we can train our bodies to crave food at the right time. What makes it tough is that it is a process, not so much an event. Great post!

Tiffany Y

Ellen Glovsky said...

Thanks, Tiffany! I agree this is a process, and not always perfect. Who said we have to be perfect?? People tell me they are proud of their "healthy" diet, and that often means RIGIDITY, not health. We all need treats, and need to be eating what we really want and stopping when really full.