According to a new study, how hungry you are may be less influenced by how much you ate earlier but rather by how much you remember eating. To keep yourself from eating too often and too much, consider the practice of mindful eating—paying more attention while eating.
In the study published in the PLOS ONE journal, University of Bristol gave 100 volunteers lunch with either a small or large portion of tomato soup as an appetizer. The bowls had a secret tube that refilled or drained the soup without the participants knowing, so half of them ended up eating more or less than what their eyes told them they were eating. Predictably, right after the meal, the participants’ hunger levels were tied to how much of the soup they actually ate. But two to three hours later, how much they thought they had eaten mattered more: Those who believed they had a larger portion (regardless of actually eating that much or not) said they felt less hungry for another meal than the group who thought they had the smaller portion. According to the researchers, memory can have a bigger influence on appetite than the actual meal size.
How to apply this to real life? Time suggests focusing on our food more and avoiding distractions while eating:
“Take three seconds to look closely at what you are eating,” she says. “Think for a moment about the words that spring to mind: small, large, filling, etc.,” [clinical psychologist Susan Albers] says. “Taking a moment to consciously and thoughtfully encode this meal into your memory will make it more likely that you will remember what you’ve eaten later.”
Keeping your eyes on your food is also important to prevent eating too much in one sitting. The New York Times has a great article on mindful eating if you’re interested in putting this into practice yourself.