Take Sarah’s experience for example. She always ate a Chelsea bun at coffee time. She wanted to lose weight, but felt that she needed to fill a gap in her stomach by mid-morning and indulged. Shifting those extra pounds was tough as she ate a bun every day. However, a French friend came to visit and was amazed that Sarah felt the need to consume a cake with coffee. “But coffee is almost a meal in itself,” she said. “In France, we would not dream of eating during our morning coffee break!”
Sarah had not considered coffee to be filling previously. Nonetheless, she took on her friend’s idea that it might be, and strangely, her need to eat during her break vanished. “It’s odd, but I don’t feel hungry anymore,” she reported.
You may be thinking that Sarah’s reduction in hunger was all in her mind. However, a study carried out by clinical psychologist Alia Crum suggests differently.
Crum discovered that the hormone secreted by the gut in response to hunger seemed to be influenced by the information subjects were given about what they consumed. Believing that they had downed a filling, fattening milkshake caused their ghrelin levels to drop, just as it would have if they had eaten a big meal. Thus, they did not feel hungry. Nevertheless, the milkshake was only 300 calories and should not have influenced their ghrelin levels so significantly. The control group’s ghrelin levels were much higher after consuming the same milkshakes, which they had been told were low in calories.
Crum does not advocate that people can definitely use mind over matter regarding how their body handles food, but her research is certainly interesting. Perhaps, believing that you are eating healthy food could improve your immune system. Alternatively, maybe thinking that you are consuming food that is bad for you can make you ill. We need to wait until further research is carried out to make an informed decision, but it is worth bearing in mind that what you think about the food you eat could be partially responsible for your health.