Dieting, and then returning to overzealous eating is a cycle that many people go through.
Now science may have an answer for why that happens.
Previously on HuffPost:
A new study suggests that feeling full actually makes people want to eat more than feeling hungry does, because we get tricked by the context of our surroundings and our psychological states.
Scientists tested their theory by conditioning rats. They trained rats, who had just been given food, by putting them in a box and giving them a treat when they pushed a lever. After conditioning them for 12 days, they did four days of additional training where the rats weren’t fed, but were allowed to press the lever — which didn’t give out any treats.
Basically, the rats learned to associate not being hungry with getting more food.
Basically, the rats learned to associate not being hungry with getting more food. When they were put back into the box with a lever, they would push the button more often after they were already full than when they were hungry.
“Rats that learned to respond for highly palatable foods while they were full and then inhibited their behavior while hungry, tended to relapse when they were full again,” said psychological scientist Mark E. Bouton of the University of Vermont in a press release. He worked on the study, which was published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
The rats behaved this way even when there was no food in the cage, regardless of their hunger levels, suggesting the rats were seeking out the treats because of internal cues and not their external stimuli.
What this means for people is that our bodies can be trained to seek out food, and thus cue internal hunger signals even when we’re not actually hungry, depending on the context we’re in. So learning that we’re going to get food in certain situations can actually override the physiological need for food.
The sights, sounds, and the smell of your favorite restaurant might signal the availability of your favorite food, causing your mouth to water and ultimately guiding you to eat.
“A wide variety of stimuli can come to guide and promote specific behaviors through learning. For example, the sights, sounds, and the smell of your favorite restaurant might signal the availability of your favorite food, causing your mouth to water and ultimately guiding you to eat,” the study’s authors said.
“Like sights, sounds, and smells, internal sensations can also come to guide behavior, usually in adaptive and useful ways: We learn to eat when we feel hunger, and learn to drink when we feel thirst. However, internal stimuli such as hunger or satiety may also promote behavior in ways that are not so adaptive.”
This can be why people return to their old eating habits after dieting. When the restrictions of dieting are gone, we fall back into to those habits of eating when we aren’t necessarily hungry because of the situations we’re in.
“You need to practice the inhibition in the context where it’s going to matter,” Bouton said in a press release. “You want to learn to control your eating in the presence of all those cues that have been so hard.”
That means that eating carrots instead of chips while sitting on the couch and watching TV has to become your go-to habit. As we well know, it’s those slow and steady lifestyle shifts that make all the difference, and are much more likely to be successful than fad diets and quick fixes.
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Author: Sima Shakeri