Monday, June 25, 2007

What makes you eat?

Time magazine's cover article on appetite included a little piece, "What Makes Us Eat More." Here are the points:

  • Time of day: Routine conditions us to get hungry at the same time each day. Solution: regular eating habits help! It's OK to be hungry at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But if you eat at odd times, you may find yourself hungry at odd times. Routine, routine, routine.
  • Sight: The sight of food that you like affects the brain. Your mouth starts watering. That's why avoiding food is so effective. (Avoiding food is one of my solutions to compulsive eating.)
  • Variety: Even when you're full, you make room for dessert. This might be a "sight" issue, too, but you can help curb the craving for variety, by adding variety to your main meal. They suggest a bit of fruit in a salad, for example. Ayurveda, India's traditional medicine, suggests that each meal should contain all 6 tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. A variety of colors is also nice.
  • Smell: Smell also is a cue to eat. Smell can trigger the insulin secretion that makes you think you're hungry.
  • Alcohol: There's no scientific proof that it stimulates appetite, but it impairs judgment.
  • Temperature: Colder temperatures stimulate you to eat more. Guess what? Restaurants keep the thermostat low for this reason.
  • Refined carbs: After spaghetti, you may want to eat again in a couple of hours. That's because refined carbohydrates cause the blood sugar to drop, so you think you're hungry.
Here's a technique to try with a friend: After a meal, when you know you're not hungry, have your friend present you with a sweet treat, with the understanding that you won't eat it. Look at the food and pay attention to what you experience in your body. Do you suddenly feel the urge to eat? Probably. Where in your body is that urge? Close your eyes and see if it subsides. Open them again and feel the change as the sight of the food stimulates your desire. Learn to be aware of these signs and whether they're real or not. Notice that your stomach hasn't gotten any emptier, even when you wanted to eat the treat.

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