Just Say No to Food

when your stomach is full, you must say "no," even if your mouth wants more.

For Your Health

Just Say No

What to do when the tummy’s full but the mouth wants more

-Brittany Fenning

people on a line for foodWhat is it about our favorite foods that makes us unable to put down the fork even when we are no longer hungry? Why do we keep loading up at the buffet table even when the first plate filled us up? It turns out that biology may be what’s really to blame.

Dr. Gene-Jack Wang, senior scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory and professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine hoped to find the reason. They conducted a study, a somewhat odd one, we think, which appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. It included 10 men and 13 women who were asked about their favorite foods, which were, not surprisingly, the usual suspects–brownies, lasagna, pizza, fried chicken and ice cream. Following 20 hours of fasting, the researchers offered the 23 individuals their favorite dishes, but allowed them only to smell and taste the food, not scarf it down. Participants were then asked to convince themselves they were not hungry while PET scans checked their brain activity.

Researchers found that both men and women controlled their cravings through the areas of the brain that manage emotions. And both genders were able to make themselves feel less hungry by attempting to convince themselves that they were, in fact, less hungry. But the PET scans of the women’s brains showed that though they may have believed they had succeeded in convincing themselves they were no longer hungry, they still really wanted to eat. Does this prove that women have less willpower? Or, maybe that they are just smarter than men? Pass the brownie while we consider.

Dr. Wang concluded that hormones could be a factor in women, making them less able to resist the foods they like even when they try to convince themselves to abstain. He believes it may be related to the fact they need to eat more when they’re pregnant. (Or maybe, simply, they just find brownies just too darn tempting.)

Still, the next time you’re feeling stuffed after a meal and inexplicably about to dive into that mountain of mashed potatoes, use mind over matter to let your hormones know who’s boss and push that plate away.

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