After repeating the Eat Less, Move More mantra, many people are stunned to discover their magical thinking has not, in fact, led to magical weight loss.
An important question remains unanswered: specifically, how on earth can we trick ourselves to eat less?
If we ate for purely physiological motivations, we would eat until we were full and then stop. However, as you know my bias on this issue, we dont eat for physiologically motivated reasons, we eat for psychological ones. The idea of novelty and the critical role boring food plays in maintaining a diet is yet another example to illustrate my belief.
Sensory Specific Satiety
…refers to the declining satisfaction generated by a specific type of food, and consequent appeal of a new food based on its exposure. SSS explains why we are still hungry for dessert after a perfectly satiating dinner: because of the novelty of the dessert (obviously!).
SSS is an elegant way of saying that after eating a certain amount of food, it becomes boring. So, we move on to the next item available. This is what Sensory Specific Satiety is: getting bored with one food, and moving on to the next (regardless of whether you have eaten enough or too much in terms of caloric content).
To illustrate the power of SSS, Rolls and van Duijvenvoorde (1983) conducted an experiment between buffet versus a single-course meals. The dependent variable was total calories consumed. Participants were fed either sausages, bread and butter, chocolate dessert, or bananas. Their results showed a 44% increase in overall food consumption when participants were exposed to a variety of foods.
The principal of Sensory Specific Satiety has a really clear evolutionary rationale: those species that could continue eating (in the absence of hunger) would survive for longer, because they could store more calories. One way to consume more calories, would be eating a variety of food.
SSS can be Exploited for Darker Purposes: You Canˊt Eat Just One!
Now that we are faced with 17 nuanced varieties of white cheese flavour, this survival instinct is running amok. Also, it can be exploited so that you eat more. Foods that dissolve on your tongue are typically pretty resistant to SSS. Foods that have sort of a gross after taste, but taste amazing while you are eating (yes, I am specifically thinking of Cheetos, for the record) are also resistant to SSS- the novelty of their flavour while they are being tasted is so high that you want to continue to consume eating.
High carbohydrate items, like pasta and potatoes, are very resistant to SSS. We evolved during times when there was a limitation to the nutrients we could access: starches and grain based carbohydrates have classically been easier to produce and gain food value than other sources (fruits and vegetables are seasonal- they are also very high in water content so they are not as satiating as starchy carbohydrates, and protein is a difficult macro nutrient to access because it would require successfully hunting or nurturing another animal).
…But Humans Are Clever
So, lets reverse this principal, and see if we can bring some sense to the Eat Less part of the equation.
Protein is both very vulnerable to SSS (you get tired of the taste of meat and high protein food faster than high carbohydrate type foods), but critically, it is also very satiating. Also, the quantity of foods available on high protein diets are comparatively limited to those in high carbohydrate diets. Logistically, you are less likely to over-consume high protein foods by virtue the fact that there are fewer options.
Recently, high protein high fibre diets have been shown to produce the most effective way to achieve weight-loss maintenance (Larsen et al., 2010). Whether this is due to a magic quality of foods on the high protein/ high fibre food list, or whether it is because high protein/ high fibre foods simply become more boring to eat, more quickly, and are more satiating, is up for debate.
I like the latter alternative. Simply saying I’m bored with this is a little easier to muster than: The principals of Sensory Specific Satiety are correct insofar as the novelty of item A has dimished. Ergo, I no longer find it pleasant, and do not want to eat any more.
Hopefully, incorporating foods from the High Protein/ High Fibre food list will help you achieve the Eat Less part of the equation by boring you enough, satiating you sufficiently, and also reducing the total number of calories you consume.
Larsen, T. M., Dalskov, S. M., van Baak, M., Jebb, S. A., Papadaki, A., Pfeiffer, A. F., et al. (2010). Diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance. N Engl J Med, 363(22), 2102-2113.
Rolls, B. J., Van Duijvenvoorde, P. M., & Rowe, E. A. (1983). Variety in the diet enhances intake in a meal and contributes to the development of obesity in the rat. Physiol Behav, 31(1), 21-27.