Why are you eating when you’re not hungry? And drinking when you’re not thirsty?


By : Mandy Erickson

Published January 5, 2018


Why are you eating when you’re not hungry? And drinking when you’re not thirsty?

 

If you’re a full grown adult, you probably don’t try to sit on the toilet if you don’t feel the urge to pee or poo. And you probably don’t reach for a tissue and try to blow your nose just for fun.

 

The thought of it is almost humorous, isn’t it? You yawn and sneeze and pee and poo and blow your nose when your body subconsciously tells you to. The same should be true of eating and drinking, no? Eat when you’re hungry? Drink when you’re thirsty? And stop when you’re full?

 

As we all know, this isn’t the case for most people today, and a new study published in Psychological Science (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797617719084), explains that decisions to eat might be more learned than they are rooted in our physiology.

 

Truthfully, to prove this point, all we really need to do is look at a baby: A baby eats when he/she is hungry. Babies don’t have eating disorders, and babies don’t often over eat. But fast-forward a few years, and suddenly the baby is a young child over-indulging in ice cream and cake after dinner.

 

I digress: This particular study was done on rats, but bear with me as it’s actually pretty interesting:

 

32 rats were put through half-an-hour of conditioning for 12 days. Then some rats were fed and others were not. They were then put in a box for another four days—a box that had a lever they could press that would administer tasty treats.

 

The result: After 16 days, the rats were more likely to press the lever after they had been fed and were already full than when they were hungry! The 16 days had taught them that when they were full, it was somehow a signal that they wanted something tasty after their meal.

 

I think we can all relate to that: After dinner, our bodies are full yet somehow we make room for dessert.

 

Author Robb Wolf has a theory about this, as well: It’s called palate fatigue, and it’s essentially a strategy we have wired in us that causes us to want to diversify the nutrients we get.

 

From an ancestral standpoint, it ensures we get all the vitamins and minerals etc that our bodies need to survive. But in the modern world, it means we’re constantly seeking different flavours and tastes, and it might be part of the reason we still make room for apple pie after Thanksgiving dinner when our bellies are more than full.

I argue the same is true when it comes to drinking. We have learned (and have arguably been misled) by the media, and the supposed experts, that we need to be hydrating and drinking all the time—that we need to drink 4 gallons of water a day etc!

 

You don’t see a baby force feeding himself water, but go to any start line for any kind of endurance event and you’ll see people who aren’t thirsty chugging water to avoid getting dehydrated, because we have been told that by the time you’re thirsty, IT’S TOO LATE!

 

Is it too late to pee once you feel you have to pee? Is it too late to sneeze once you feel the urge to sneeze? No. But somehow we have been bred to believe it’s TOO LATE when your body tells you its thirty. Hmmm. This is why we’re supposed to “pre-hydrate.”

 

I’m not alone: There’s a school of thought out there that says pre-hydrating isn’t real, and that we have been fear mongered into thinking we need to drink more than we really do. Check out this article for more: (https://journal.crossfit.com/article/top-five-hydration-myths-busted-2)

 

Try it out for a while: Drink only when you’re thirsty and stop when you’re not. Eat only when you’re hungry and stop when you’re not. Then report back!

 


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