To Eat or Not to Eat
Amber Janine Chandler
Saturday, May 5th, 2012
Susan Forde, Ph.D.
To Eat or Not to Eat
The human body needs nutrients to live. In fact, ever body – whether human, animal, or plant – needs nutrients to survive. And the quickest way for organisms to get those nutrients is through food. But what causes us to eat? What motivators push us toward finding that next meal? When do we know when we’re actually hungry rather than simply desiring a snack to pass the time? And, equally as important, how do we know that we have reached the necessary calorie intake level – more commonly known as being “full”? Although there are many factors that influence our ...view middle of the document...
So rather than telling you that you need to eat that much food, your body is preparing to digest it, so it can later regain the homeostasis that you are used to. In contrast, those who eat several small meals or snacks throughout the day, rather than a few regularly scheduled, larger meals are much less likely to experience these hunger pangs. It may also be interesting to note that if you miss your scheduled meal, the symptoms will continue for a while and possibly become more prominent, but will eventually subside. On the other hand, eating the scheduled meal will lead to the subsiding of those symptoms much quicker, and, when the food has positive-incentive value, can contribute to continued satiety later on throughout the day (Isaksson et al, 2011).
Another interesting factor that may contribute to feeling hungry is pavlovian hunger, or the idea that we can be conditioned to feel hungry at the presence of something specific – such as Pavlov’s dog and the bell – even if we are in fact very full. A modern-day example of this would be that of dessert: after a large meal you are most likely feeling as though your stomach cannot hold another bite. Some describe this as feeling as though they might “pop”. Yet when someone presents you with ice cream, pie, cake, or any other number of delicacies, you simply cannot resist indulging in the treat. This is because many of us, as a society, have been conditioned to feel hungry at the sight of dessert even if we are quite the opposite.
Yet another factor which can cause hunger – or the idea of it, which essentially is a myth – is the appetizer effect. When appetizers are served, they generally cause those who partake to feel more hungry than they were before, leading them to eat larger meals. Similarly, if a larger meal is served we are very likely to eat the majority of it, often over eating and possibly even making ourselves ill. On the other hand, if a smaller meal is served, perhaps one with just enough calories to get us by, we would likely be perfectly satiated by the smaller portion.
Of course there are several more severe factors that can affect our feelings of hunger and satiety. Among these are hormone imbalances and damage to the brain. When the brain is damaged – particularly the hypothalamus, the signals that usually tell our bodies when we are hungry and when we are full are no longer as effective. This can cause over eating or possible self-starvation. The hormones that...