Why Do We Eat? A Discussion of Hunger Cues.

Gretchen Becker Health Guide
  • When you were a kid did you enjoy licking the bowl after your mother mixed up some cookie dough or icing? I sure did.


    In fact, I found licking the bowl tastier than eating the cake. I was probably not alone, as evidenced by the popular cookie dough ice cream flavors. But I wonder how much had to do with the flavor of raw batter and how much with the pleasure of the scraping.


    I've always enjoyed getting the last bits of food out of a container: spooning up the last remnants of yogurt from the cup, or slurping up the last of a milkshake, with that socially unacceptable noise the adults always told you to stop making. Even today, if I'm alone, I'll lick the dinner plate to get up the last of the sauces or juices. I try not to do that in fancy restaurants.

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    I'm incapable of eating only half the yogurt in a container. If I want only half, I have to dish it out into a separate dish and then eat that, scraping the sides when I'm done.


    Am I peculiar? Probably in many ways. But I suspect other people approach their eating in ways that aren't really logical. Yes, I grew up in an era when the adults had lived through the Great Depression and wasting food was sinful. But leaving a few scrapes of icing on the sides a bowl is not really wasteful. It's the scraping that brings pleasure.


    I'm sure not everyone approaches food my way. For me, the first bite of anything tastes the best. The tip of the blueberry pie was always the most delicious. But if I had eaten three pieces of pie, the last ones wouldn't have been as tasty, just very sweet. And I'd eat it more mechanically than the first bites.


    However, someone else said that wasn't true for her. Once she took one bite, she wanted to take more bites, and more, and more, and more.


    We're all different. And if we're trying to lose weight, we need to find out why we eat in certain ways and how we can use that knowledge in our eternal search for thinness.


    I know that if I want to eat less of anything that comes in a container, the only way is to put what I plan to eat into another container. If I want to eat less for supper, the best way is to use small plates, eat everything on my plate, scrape it or lick it clean (saves on washing the dishes), and not have seconds.


    But that might not work for you. Then what is it that makes you eat too much? Is it the sight of food? The smell of food? Because it's mealtime? Or are you simply hungry all the time?


    Depending on what your eating cues are, your solutions might be different. Don't take the word of some diet guru that their method will work for you. It might. Or it might not. Do some testing to see what helps you, and then share your findings with other people.


    Do you live next to a bakery and can't deal with those wonderful smells? When a ewe rejects her lamb because it doesn't smell right, we sometimes put vapor rub on the lamb and on her nose. That masks any other smells, and she eventually accepts the lamb. Vapor rub under the nose every time you pass a bakery is a bit extreme, but perhaps wearing or carrying highly scented things that would mask the bakery smells would help.


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    If you're just really hungry all the time, Byetta might help. If you automatically eat when it's mealtime, you could make sure the foods that are available then are low in calories. If you eat from boredom (I do), you could try harder to find something interesting to do.


    If you're hungry all the time no matter what you do, then you probably have something wrong metabolically, and you should consult a physician to discuss that. Drugs and weight-loss surgery are last resorts, but if your weight is causing serious medical problems, the benefits might outweigh the risk. Just look into all sides of the issue before you decide. Some drugs and sometimes gastric bypass can have serious long-term effects.


    The best way to lose weight is to figure out why you're eating more than you need to eat and then to figure out some good nonmedical way to fix that.


    It's not easy, I know. But we have to try.




Published On: July 29, 2010