Still Hungry After A Healthy Meal? The Problem's Not On Your Plate

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janelle-jones-refinery29-popsicles-kale -130624-221_JanelleJones 2Photographed By Janelle Jones.
Anyone who's ever tried to eat healthy knows that it's way harder than it looks. Sure, the supermarket is full of "healthy" or "light" versions of our favorite foods, from pizza to ice cream to mac and cheese. But, those low-cal, low-fat options often taste like extra-bland cardboard with a heaping serving of depressing emptiness. The worst part, of course, is that not-quite-full sensation you get after scarfing down a skinny-girl substitute. You eat something that's supposed to be a great choice, and then you feel cheated.

Well, it turns out, that unsatisfied feeling might just be in your head. NPR has explored the psychology behind what makes us feel full, citing a study by Columbia Business School professor and psychologist Alia Crum. In the study, Crum created a big batch of vanilla milkshakes, which were labeled either as a 140-calorie, low-sugar diet drink called "Sensishake," or as a 600-calorie, full-fat shake. (The drinks actually contained 300 calories per serving.) The researchers found that those who drank the "600-calorie" shake experienced a much bigger drop in the level of the hormone ghrelin in their blood than those who were served the "Sensishake."


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08_janelle-jones-refinery29-holiday-desserts-131121-7093_1600x1067_JanelleJonesPhotographed By Janelle Jones.
Usually associated with hunger, ghrelin levels drop after a big meal to signal that the body has had enough food. In this case, although all the subjects consumed the same number of calories, those who thought they were consuming more calories actually felt more full than those who thought they were drinking a light substitute.

It seems, then, that your perception of what you're eating plays a big role in how satisfied it makes you feel. If this is true, it could have a major impact on the way we think about food — and how it's labeled. And, it really makes you wonder: If good-for-you options were marked as being high-cal, would we find it easier to just order a salad? (NPR)