This news comes, as so many good things do, from the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior. A brain-imaging study has revealed what Forbes calls a “hack for making healthier portion choices,” and it’s straight from the school of “yeah, no shit”: turns out we make healthier portion size choices when we think about health before we dish ourselves up a meal.
The researchers worked with participants of various body types, including people in the “normal” weight range and people considered obese. They then told them to think about one of three things before they chose a portion size for lunch. One group thought about the health effects of the food. One group thought about the pleasure they expected to experience when eating. The third focused on the need to stay full from breakfast to lunch. A control group wasn’t told to think about anything at all. And voila:
The results showed that most everyone, regardless of weight, chose smaller portions when told to think about the health effects of the food. When told to think of pleasure, the obese participants chose larger portions than normal-weight participants. When told to think of fullness until dinner, most participants chose larger portions regardless of their weight.
In terms of fancy-ass science-y stuff, brain imaging revealed that participants in the obese range “had greater activity in a ‘taste-processing region of the brain’ when thinking about the pleasure of eating the food;” while everyone grabbed too much food when thinking about staying full, Forbes notes that “obese participants were especially influenced by the mindset.”
So thinking about how much pleasure you’re going take from eating can screw you over; thinking about not winding up hungry can screw you over. Thinking about health though, that means you’ll... behave as though you’re thinking about health.