Wellness: Indulge With Just a Bite

January 2013

As Americans, indulgence doesn't come with eating an Oreo cookie. It comes with eating five. The thought process seems to be: If we're going to submit to our cravings, why not go all in? It's not much of a treat if we limit ourselves. There's a reason bliss can come in the form of a child with chocolate cake smeared around his mouth—because that kid knows how to enjoy life.

But this patriotic stand in dessert eating doesn't hold much water, according to a new study from Brian Wansink's Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University. Wansink and his researchers split a group of 104 participants and provided one group with large portion sizes of chocolate (100 grams), apple pie (200 grams), and potato chips (80 grams) for a total of 1,370 calories, and the second group a smaller portion of 10, 40, and 10 grams, respectively, for a total of 195 calories. Researchers asked participants to describe their hunger and cravings before eating and 15 minutes after. It turns out that the amount of food consumed had little bearing on the amount of satiety between the groups. Participants given the smaller portions were just as satisfied with their snacks as the second that ate 77 percent more food and 103 more calories.

In the end, it comes down to 1) eat smaller portions, 2) eat slowly, and 3) savor each bite. It reads like the introduction to French Women Don't Get Fat. These steps give our stomach time to register the sugary goodness and send a signal to our brain to let it know it only took two Hershey kisses to kick that chocolate craving. Shove too much in too soon, and you won't give the signal a chance to register anything. Wansink recommends putting 15 minutes between your first treat and its follow-up. 

"After 15 minutes all you’ll remember—in your head and in your stomach—is that you had a tasty snack.”

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