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Food/Nutrition Columnist Author: Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN, Food & Nutrition Consultants - Last Updated: Oct 21, 2017 - 7:41:05 AM

What Makes You Eat?

By Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN, Food & Nutrition Consultants -
Oct 23, 2017 - 7:31:36 AM

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( - The simple answer should be hunger. If we all ate to eliminate hunger and stopped eating when we were full, nobody would be overweight. In reality, few of us ever feel hunger and most of us don't stop eating when we're full. The result is more than 70% of American adults are overweight and 1 out of every 6 kids weighs too much.

We refer to people's appetites as big, healthy, bird-like or poor. So is it your appetite that makes you eat too little, too much, or just the right amount? In part, yes. But your appetite is a very complex response to forces inside and outside your body.

Appetite is defined as the desire to eat. Your desire to eat should be driven by hunger. When enough time has passed from your last meal or snack, your body sends signals that it needs to be refueled. Actual hunger usually occurs 4 to 6 hours after the last time you ate. But, it is not so easy. The desire to eat can be influenced by many things -- proximity to food, smell, taste, temperature, or your current social setting. For many people the clock signals the time to eat even if you don't feel hungry. Some eat more with company, others eat more when they are alone. Men eat more on dates than women do. The smell of baking bread or an ice cream on a hot day is hard to resist regardless of whether you are hungry or not.

If so many situations besides hunger make you eat, what stops you from overeating? Your body receives two different signals that trigger you to stop eating. One lets you know that you have eaten enough. The second signals that you are satisfied after eating and helps to create the space between meals. The types of foods you eat trigger both of the signals.

If you eat a variety of foods you are more likely to overeat. That is why buffets or cafeteria lines can generate overeating because you are seduced into choosing more food than you actually need. When you are confronted with a lot of choices, select no more than 3 foods, eat them, and if you are still hungry, then go back for seconds. If you eat only one food at a time, you are less likely to overeat because you get tired of the same taste over and over again. Sweetened drinks, like soda or fruit-flavored drinks, or foods loaded with sugar cause you to overeat and shorten the time between meals. Starting your meal with a food that has volume and slows down eating cuts down on the amount of calories you eat in a meal. Soup, salad, shrimp or edamame in the shell are good choices. Add alcohol to a meal and you stimulate your appetite, making it more likely you will eat too much.

Foods high in fiber or fat make you feel fuller longer, increasing the time between meals. Having some protein at each meal triggers the hormone, cholecystokinin, which signals the brain to slow down how fast the stomach empties. It also reduces the action of the hunger-reducing hormone ghrelin.

Sex counts when it comes to overindulging. Both men and women splurge on food but men do it to feel good and reward themselves. Women feel guilty when they splurge.

To prevent over eating:

· Go easy on soda and sweetened drinks.

· Eat fewer overly sweet foods

· Eat more fiber -- popcorn, beans, vegetables, whole grains, oatmeal

· Eat some protein at each meal or snack

· Start your meal with soup, salad or finger foods that require work to eat

· Enjoy a little fat in your meals, very low fat meals are less satisfying

· Be selective at buffets or party spreads, all those choices are too tempting

· Go easy on alcohol, it stimulates your desire to eat

© NRH Nutrition Consultants, Inc.

Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and the author of 30 books. Available as eBooks from iTunes and Kindle/Amazon:

Diabetes Counter

Calorie Counter

Protein Counter

Healthy Wholefoods Counter

Complete Food Counter

Fat and Cholesterol Counter

Available in print from Gallery Books:

Most Complete Food Counter, 3rd Ed.

Your Complete Food Counter App:

For more information on Jo-Ann and her books, go to:



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