Appetite is a very complex regulatory process. According to an article in Scientific AmericanTM (based on a recent study in PLOS One by Jeffrey Brunstrom and colleagues, your sense of hunger is a “trick of memory” and is influenced by how much you think you ate. Participants were asked to eat soup (some from bowls that were rigged to add more to the bowl, take some away, or do nothing to the amount—all unbeknownst to the subjects). Here are a few caveats:
• Right after a meal, participants who had eaten a larger portion were more sated than those who had eaten a smaller portion (one cup versus two cups of soup).
• Two and three hours later, however, although all participants were hungrier, of course, it had little to do with how much soup had actually been eaten.
• Participants who ate a small portion and thought it was large were more sated than those who ate a large portion and thought it was small.
When it comes to feeling full, it appears that your eyes are more important than your stomach and more deliberate and mindful eating (versus mindless or distracted eating) leads to stronger food-associated memories, which in turn provide a stronger antidote against future hunger.