You make yourself a delicious breakfast, then 15 minutes after finishing, you’re ready for lunch. Sound familiar? Even though you think you’re hungry, it doesn’t necessarily mean you actually are, says a new study.
Our minds have always been good at playing tricks on us—and not even our appetites are safe. Researchers had 26 participants eat what they believed to be a two or four egg omelette for breakfast on two separate occasions, but surprise: All the dishes contained three eggs both times.
When participants thought they had the smaller omelette, they felt hungrier way sooner than those who enjoyed a faux-bigger plate of eggs. This not only made them eat more of their lunch than the “four-egg” group but also led them to consume more calories overall for the day.
Participants’ total intake for the day was lower when they believed they had eaten a larger breakfast.
“Previous studies have shown that a person’s expectations can have an impact on their subsequent feelings of hunger and fullness and, to a degree, their later calorie consumption,” said Steven Brown, PhD, in a press release. “Our work builds on this with the introduction of solid food and measured people’s subsequent consumption four hours later, a period of time more indicative of the gap between breakfast and lunch. We were also able to measure participants’ consumption throughout the rest of the day and found that total intake was lower when participants believed that they had eaten a larger breakfast.”
Obviously it seems better to go with your body than your mind when it comes to deciding whether you’re really hungry or not, but your head isn’t always against you—that’s just where mindful eating comes in.
Unlike in the study, you probably know what’s going into your food (whether you made or ordered it), so you won’t fall victim to the three-egg trick. But if you eat mindfully after you whip up your breakfast—AKA with intention and attention, not while scrolling through Instagram—you can hone in on your body and feel how full you actually are. (But once you’re done eating, do yourself a favor and scroll through these healthy Insta it-dogs.)
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