How Feeling Full Can Make You Want to Eat More

Posted on October 10, 2017

A recent study by Mark E. Bouton and Scott T. Schepers from the University of Vermont in Burlington suggests that diets often fail because of behavioral conditioning: While on a diet, we condition ourselves not to eat when we feel hungry, but this does not mean that it lasts outside of the context of dieting. The researchers say that the feeling of satiety can serve as a “context” that may condition us to want to eat more.

Bouton and Schepers explain that, in general, "a wide variety of stimuli can come to guide and promote specific behaviors through learning. For example, the sights, sounds, and the smell of your favorite restaurant might signal the availability of your favorite food, causing your mouth to water and ultimately guiding you to eat. Like sights, sounds, and smells, internal sensations can also come to guide behavior, usually in adaptive and useful ways." They add that "we learn to eat when we feel hunger, and learn to drink when we feel thirst."

However, internal stimuli such as hunger or satiety may also promote behavior in ways that are not so adaptive: their new research suggests that the actual feeling of hunger or satiety can act as "cues" for eating behavior. After a certain behavior is inhibited, either a return to the conditioning context, or a simple removal from the treatment context can cause the behavior to return. Simply said, once we move away from the context in which we learned to eat fewer calories, we are prone to relapse, and this also applies to any other behavior, such as exercising more or giving up alcohol.

The researchers found that one reason why most diets fail is that the inhibition of eating learned while dieters are hungry does not transfer well to a non-hungry state. Therefore, dieters can ‘relapse’ into eating – or even overeating – when they feel full again.

Overall, the findings confirmed the researchers' hypothesis that internal states of hunger and fullness can act as conditioning contexts.

Category(s):Health / Illness / Medical Issues, Other

Source material from Medical News Today

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