Want To Be More Satisfied?
Our brain always seems hungry! The gut-brain communication fails us regularly, and is responsible for hijacking our best dieting efforts.
We have greater success placing emphasis on our “satisfaction” versus our “fullness” when eating our meals.
Food variety has a powerful influence. The more variety we encounter at a meal, the more we eat. This relates to a fundamental property of the nervous system called habituation. Habituation is the simplest form of learning and it is deeply ingrained in humans. The habituation process operates each time we sit down to eat. We eat our fill of a specific food and feel totally satisfied, but that doesn’t mean we won’t eat other foods that have different sensory specific properties. For example, we could have had an enormous and satisfying Thanksgiving dinner, but for some reason we are interested in dessert.
The system of the gut-brain communication that governs satiety doesn’t do well transmitting the caloric value of the meal to the brain. Some foods make us fuller than others though, especially those foods high in fibre, and food low on the Glycemic Index scale.
The satiety factor and a specific region of the brain called the hypothalamus forms a feedback system that works hard to regulate the level of fat stored in our bodies; and to keep our fat stored at a stable level. When body fat levels decrease, the satiety factor decreases, and this stimulates our appetite, encouraging us to gain the fat back to its initial level.
This fat-regulating system, called Lipostat, is Greek for “fat and stationary”. Lipostat is deeply rooted in our brain and hijacks other brain functions (including emotions and cognition) and puts them to work seeking food.
We can learn from the centenarians in Okinawa, Japan. Okinawa is one of the “Blue Zone” regions where people live the longest and healthiest in the world. They have a Confucian-inspired adage that is spoken prior to meals “Hara Hachi Bu”.
Hara Hachi Bu is a 2500 year-old Japanese saying that translates to: “eat until you are 80% full”. The difference is that North Americans say “I’m full”, whereas the Okinawans say “I am no longer hungry”.
Your everyday eating habits can be changed. Try these 3 strategies inspired by Hara Hachi Bu
Limit the distractions (remove your phone, turn the TV off), and eat at the table. Eat slowly and take time to savour your food. Set aside enough time to enjoy your food.
Eating slowly gives an opportunity for your stomach to tell your brain you are satisfied and no longer hungry. Put your fork down between bites. Eating slowly allows you to enjoy the different flavours, textures and the aroma. Stop eating when you are satisfied.
Consider the size of your plates and glasses. The serving size of the meal, or snack, is a direct cue to our brain telling us how much we should eat. Use smaller plates, and narrow, smaller glasses.