The word “diet” can often be considered a dirty word. While many of us are constantly trying to lose weight, diet foods or healthy foods often seem less appetizing than that bowl of ice cream or a bag of salty chips. A new study from Yale University explores the link between our perceptions of food and the level of satisfaction we get from it. It finds that if the food we eat is perceived as indulgent or unhealthy, we actually feel fuller after eating than if we see our food as healthy or diet-related. There is an actual measurable difference in the level of the hormone that tells us we are hungry when we anticipate unhealthy vs. healthy foods – even if the foods are, in reality, identical.
What does that mean for your eating habits? It may be enough to simply be aware of the power of your perceptions. If, psychologically, you are thinking about dieting and health food, you may not feel as satisfied after eating, even if you are full. Try to see your healthy choices in a different light. For example, fresh organic fruit from FruitShare is undoubtedly super healthy. But instead of perceiving fruit as a diet food, try to think of it as an indulgence. All that naturally-occurring sugar and juicy goodness is a treat for your taste buds and for your body. Clinical psychologist and lead author of the study Alia Crum says, “People should still work to eat healthy, but do so in a mindset of indulgence.” To do this, it is enough to simply believe that a food will fulfill all of your nutritional and hunger needs.
Dieting can be difficult enough without feeling hungry or under-fed. Think about your food and appreciate its goodness rather than resenting “diet food.” You can also make true indulgences more healthful by adding fresh fruit; top your ice cream with sliced nectarines, or make a blueberry pie from scratch with Lou’s superblues. Making your food fun and delicious can set you on the path to a healthy weight.