You Are What You (Think You) Eat

Think Good ThoughtsLast week’s post on marketing took me in an interesting turn this week. I stumbled on an article on NPR highlighting a past but very provocative study that I’ve been toying with for a couple of days now. Having spent years researching the placebo effect, Alia Crum, a clinical psychologist and researcher for Columbia Business School, was intrigued by the possibility that food could also be subject to certain physical placebo-generated outcomes. She wondered if our beliefs about a food or drink could influence the effects it physically elicited in us. After all, if what we believed about a sugar pill could make a measurable difference in our physiological functioning, why would a food product be any different? And on that note, weren’t we all being constantly fed (pardon the pun) elaborate messages about the food we bought? Did the variety of labels and claims somehow weave themselves in our mental fabric enough to not only impact our consumer behavior but maybe our body’s responses themselves?

She put her inkling to the test by setting up an experiment in which participants all drank the same 300 calorie French Vanilla shake, with one group believing they were drinking a 620 calorie decadent “Indulgence” shake and the other group operating under the impression that they were enjoying a “Sensishake” with a mere 140 calories and no fat or added sugar. The result confirmed Crum’s hunch. Those who were given the “Indulgence” labelled shakes reported greater satiety, but the bigger news was to come.

While the “Sensishake” group showed relatively stable ghrelin response (a key hunger-stimulating hormone), the “Indulgence” group demonstrated a dramatic drop in ghrelin – about three times the drop as those who thought they were drinking a low-calorie shake. In other words, those who thought they had enjoyed a rich, calorie-dense treat showed the hormonal response associated with doing just that, whereas the subjects who thought they had consumed a low-calorie shake (in the truth the same shake) responded hormonally as if they had, indeed, only had a lower calorie snack. What’s up with this?

Honestly, the first thing that came to mind when I read about this was a placebo-focused study done in housekeepers related to exercise. Essentially, the researchers (one of whom was Alia Crum, it turns out) assembled a cohort of hotel housekeepers who performed the same amount of work each day for their jobs but did little to no other exercise. The researchers, Crum (then a student) and Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer split the women into two groups for the study. They told one group that their work constituted more than the Surgeon General’s recommended daily activity and broke down the timing and physical effort of their work tasks. The control group didn’t receive any message related to exercise or exertion. A month later when they checked back, the women who’d received the encouraging messages about their daily physical efforts reported no change in their activity levels but showed rather significant physical changes. They’d lost on average two pounds each and lowered their systolic blood pressure by ten points. Again, nothing substantial had changed in their behavior. You could argue they put a little more elbow grease into their cleaning routines, but nothing about their duties or outside exercise was different. Another point for the power of mentality apparently.

The whole premise had me intrigued. What else was out there to demonstrate the physiological impact of believing what we were eating/doing was healthier/less healthy than it actually was. What could amplify good impacts? What would ameliorate negative choices? In particular, I’d hoped to dig up more on the nutrition front. What other hormonal effects had been measured in correlation with certain messaging in a study setting? Unfortunately, my search came up relatively dry on the physiological front, but I did get to read some interesting perspective on the sociological and emotional associations and their potential “placebo” effects. I’d recommend this article on “placebo analogies in diet and food culture.” (You can view the full article as a PDF.) Clearly, our food intake and perceived satiety hinge greatly on how our food is prepared (e.g. home-cooked), how it’s presented (e.g small plate/big plate), how it’s eaten (e.g. big utensils, in a group, while watching T.V.). How very Sam-I-am…

Beyond all this, however, I think of the power of mindset as what must be the subtle and (so far) under-researched physiological impact of our assumptions about the foods we eat. What does a chocolate donut do to us? Well, we pretty well know that in general. However, what if we ate that chocolate donut with full caution-to-the-wind, basking-in-luxury abandon versus if we ate it beleaguered by shame and self-recrimination? I’m not going to suggest that a person who eats total junk food all their lives with a carefree attitude is going to have a better chance at health and longevity as the person who has a good Primal eating strategy. That said, I still think attitude matters. A happy, casual mentality will act to blunt some of the bad impacts of an unhealthy lifestyle, whereas an angry, hostile or fearful mindset will blunt the positive effects of the healthiest choices. The obvious choice is to try to harness the potential of both positives – healthy living with positive thinking.

Ironically, I think this message can have special resonance or importance in a health-focused community like ours. There’s talk lately about whether the paleo world encourages or contributes to orthorexia, the clinically defined obsession with dietary purity. Truthfully, I don’t think this obsession stems from any food philosophy or that paleo thinking feeds it more than other dietary approaches do. That said, I do believe in the mental breathing room of the 80/20 Principle keeps dietary life in perspective. As most people share with me, it’s not so much the practice of the ratio and giving themselves exactly that 20% but more the chance to make choices outside the daily basics without feeling like they’ve failed.

Likewise, it’s why I’ve said time and again that I don’t believe in guilt – certainly not when it comes to a food or exercise choice anyway. No one has ever gotten healthier by feeling worse about themselves. Beating ourselves with an emotional stick won’t result in any positive change and will only block our ability to give ourselves wholly to the present choice of how we want to live in this moment. In that regard, it’s better to eat the stupid donut and move on than to perseverate for hours or even days over having taken a single bite. When it comes to the power of negative thinking and messages about our food, guilt in particular can have a very real impact. Research has shown that feeling guilty genuinely makes us feel heavier and makes physical exertion feel more difficult. Why bother with it at all? Do what you will and simply own your choices as well as their known impact.

When it comes to the positive side of this placebo equation, I think it can get really interesting. If we’re told a shake is indulgent, and that suggestion can spark a hormonal response to that effect, we can harness that power by filling our days with positive messages about what we choose to eat. Do we allow ourselves to feel deprived because we’re not raiding the candy dish at work like others do, or do we believe that our food is the most luxurious and satisfying out there? Some years ago, much was made (for a rather brief blip of time) about a luxury-focused diet, an approach that encouraged people to steer their food consumption toward smaller portions of the best, most luxurious quality of food they could afford. While it didn’t exactly do much to encourage ideal eating, it did raise a good point. If we feel like our food is an indulgence, we’ll enjoy it more, and placebo research backs up the idea that we tend to enjoy things more based on perceived expense.

How about keeping some paleo food porn in your work area? Maybe it’s just a paleo magazine or cookbook in your desk drawer or at home in your kitchen. (Yes, I clearly believe in the power of a good old-fashioned cookbook as well as online recipes.) Being part of communities (online or physical) that celebrate the same food choices for the sake of enjoyment as well as health underscore the message that your food is an indulgence to be savored. Cultivating a mindset that sees food not just as a health strategy but as a deeply meaningful, richly layered experience to be relished will undoubtedly lower your body’s stress and shame response – and increase your daily dose of pleasure. (Grok would approve.)

I’m curious about what you all think of this. What intrigues you in this? What do your instincts, experience or other reading tell you? I hope you’ll share your thoughts and enjoy the end of your week. Thanks for reading.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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66 thoughts on “You Are What You (Think You) Eat”

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  1. Checked the study methods, and ghrelin response was measured only out to 90 min after drinking the shake. I predict that these people would all be equally hungry in 3-4 hours, regardless of what they thought about the previous meal.

    1. We can’t know that for sure. Regardless, the differing hormonal responses were what they were. Interesting…

      1. Well, it’s another hypothesis. People on the “conventional wisdom” diet frequently end up snacking every ~2 hours, so 90 min of satiety may or may not be very helpful. No doubt social and behavioral cues influence hunger/satiety, but I am very skeptical of the “hunger/satiety is all in your head” approach.

        1. I don’t think anybody is saying “it’s all” in your head. I think they’re saying some of it is in your head. The studies indicate that there’s an affect, that what you think is one factor. Not that it’s the whole picture.

    2. I was about to write the same thing.

      While the mind-body connection is an extremely interesting topic, we should remain ever vigilant of research that deals with it. People have this natural affinity to believe such research more quickly, and defend it more dogmatically for some reason. This is also the reason why paying extreme attention to the methodologies with which these studies are carried out is extremely welcome.

      I personally believe that the placebo and nocebo effect are a topic that needs a lot more studying through all its connections in the future, with impecable methodology. Considering the fact that if we knew the exact mechanisms and effects it can have on individuals, we would be basically getting an added effect to different foods, medication, and so on.

      One researcher in Italy – prof. Benedetti, has been dealing a lot with the placebo effect in connection to pain and has some provided us with some really interesting insights on this topic, I highly recommend you guys check his research out

  2. I like the idea of making all eating experiences luxurious so to speak. The paleo food porn is a good idea. Got any cookbook ideas for that one?

  3. The most recent example for me around this is enjoying and being satiated with one or two tiny squares of good dark chocolate.

    The dark chocolate recommendations article from this site had a line from Mark that said a bar could last him 8 to 10 servings, instead of their recommended one or two.

    Perhaps I took that to heart – I enjoy the finer taste of a small 85%+ dark chocolate square, and do indeed find that I’m more than satiated afterwards.

    1. I totally agree. Chocolate is the perfect example of this. If I buy chocolate from a specialty store instead of a grocery store, I eat it much more slowly. It feels much more decadent.

      I have no idea if there’s actually any real difference between the obscure brand bought at the specialty store or the national brand found at the grocery store.

      1. There’s definitely a taste difference between the glorious, amazing, incredible artisanal chocolate truffles I occasionally buy at a small shop near where I live, and the crap found at the average grocery store. I usually only buy one truffle at a time, and savor it slowly – and one is plenty for me.

        I am sure there is a nutritional difference as well, but the taste difference is what matters to me.

        1. Absolutely! If anyone in New England is familiar with these words, they’d agree: Bridgewater Chocolate. Give me one of their dark chocolate almond clusters over just about 10 of anything else ANY day!

        2. I bought a high-cocoa hot-chili infused bar 2 weeks ago, still in the fridge, but slowly disappearing. It’s AWESOME.

          Couple days ago, someone gave me a Hershey bar I ate within 2 hours. The thought was awesome, but the taste was meh.

          I no longer complain about spending $2.50 for a candy bar – it’s only once every 3 weeks or so!

  4. Years ago, knowing nothing about ghrelin, leptin, etc., I was watching the Dr. Oz show. In this episode, some smart people were on, explaining how artificial sweeteners weren’t working exactly as planned.

    In short, it was like the body responded with insulin, as if real sugar had been eaten, and when it realized it had been tricked, it strongly craved sugar (or carbs, maybe). Well, I don’t remember the details so well, except that the end result of eating artificial sweeteners was weight gain, according to these researchers, by some mysterious, complicated mechanisms.

    The very wise Dr. Oz summed it up by saying something to the effect of advising to avoid artificial sweeteners. But, he thought stevia was okay.

    I remember thinking, WTF, why wouldn’t the body respond the same way to stevia? The way things were explained, the effect had nothing to do with whether the sweetener was natural or artificial, but, whether it tasted sweet and delivered no calories. It seemed like Dr. Oz totally missed the point, to me.

    1. Maybe Dr. Oz (or his network) were subsidized by “Stevia.” The almighty dollar sways professional opinions…

    2. Totally agree about the Stevia/insulin response. A cafe has opened here (South Australia) calling itself the Paleo Cafe, and sells coconut yoghurt sweetened with stevia (yucky sweet taste with funny aftertaste). I would also think that stevia has the same negative physiological effect as all other sweeteners which are very low in calories.

      1. I recall artificial sweetners like aspartame having a very bad effect on your gut biome and being bad for a lot of other reasons that have nothing to do with spiking insulin, and causing sugar cravings.

      2. No problems with stevia here. I use it to lightly sweeten my lemon green tea (half a lemon in a liter of tea) which I drink instead of water and never noticed any negative effect. The stuff is expensive and rightfully so. All other sweeteners are chemical crap. Stevia is natural. BTW when taken with bitter foods like yoghurt or lemon, the aftertaste is practically nil.

        1. “Stevia is natural”……. so is cane sugar/sucrose, and so is mercury, but are they good for you? And the granulated stevia is heavily processed like table sugar and industrial seed oils. Real stevia is a green plant.

  5. An indulgence eaten with a smile is much healthier than eating an indulgence with scorn

    1. It’s true! I saw a story once, I have no idea where, about someone who enjoys a couple Oreos a day compared to someone who feels horrible regret and guilt for eating the same number of Oreos. Now, clearly, Oreos are not healthy, but the point was, Happy Oreo Eater was healthier than Regretful Oreo eater because he was able to indulge himself with joy and stay on track the rest of his day while Regretful was punishing himself mentally (and physically with more bad food).

  6. The problem with placebos is that they don’t work when they are self-applied. Otherwise, they are a powerful tool. But unless you can hypnotize yourself and make yourself forget that it’s a placebo it won’t work on you…

    1. Actually, I believe there has been some research suggesting that, to the surprise of the researchers, placebos can be effective even when the subject knows that they are a placebo. I don’t recall if the placebo effect was just as strong or if it was diminished in this case, but I found that result really intriguing.

      1. Yes, I saw that on a documentary recently. A study conducted on sufferers of IBS in the USA, where the participants were told that it was a placebo. While the prescription lasted, the patients found their symptoms significantly diminished despite being told flat-out that they were placebos. At the end of the trial, with no repeat prescriptions issued, the IBS symptoms returned full force.

        1. It was from a facinating BBC documentary called “The Power of the Placebo”.

  7. Way back in the land of retail where I once worked, management made us all take a short course on color psychology–why clearance sale tags are all red, and so forth. It turns out we have a visual placebo effect when seeing certain kinds of color, and retail has figured out the color key to making us spend more: certain color clothes go on display (usually including the color red somewhere), why different colors are used for different types of sale tags, why yellows and greens are used in signage and ads to create that “shock and awe” feeling of urgency, and so on.

    Color is also used in the dining room: size and color of plates, lines around the edges of plates, color(s) on the tablecloth, size and color of glassware, etc.

    Fast food outlets use loud colors to get you to leave–they don’t want you to linger, taking up precious booth space that could be available for the next paying customer. In Mickey D’s case, it didn’t work too well on the elderly, so now Mickey is redesigning the stores with no dining rooms to linger in. Well-sighted people already responded years ago, and flocked to the drive-thru lane, while not-so-well-sighted used the dining rooms as social hangouts, and that cost Mickey money…especially when free coffee refills were offered.

    The walls of a drunk tank are pink for a reason: it causes calmness. This is also why AZ sheriff Joe Arpaio makes all his inmates wear pink underwear–calmness, humility, and shame.

    Hospitals used to be “hospital green” inside–now they strive to look more like home, because people heal faster.

    There are all kinds of placebo effects going on in our world–it’s like we’re inside the Matrix or something. Maybe we all need a program update for the computer between our ears.

    1. Hospitals are also green because of negative afterimages 😉 (blood has the opposite color).

    2. Sheriff Joe makes inmates wear pink underwear because they were stealing the white ones. Pink turned out to be the cheapest color to dye them and the stealing stopped.

  8. Okay, I was frustrated and confused until I reached the final two paragraphs. I certainly am willing to luxuriate in the fine foods that I eat, but my multitasking brain has me eating distractedly in front of the TV instead of quietly at the table, savoring every bite. I know when my portions are too big because I get bored with the meal before the food is gone. However, I munch on, absorbed in the screen. Light bulb moment! Positive messages and dinner music and attention to satiety from now on (if I can do it!).

  9. I agree about the guilt part, both from my experience and what I’ve seen from others. Feeling guilty about a food choice usually leads to eatin more of that or other unhealthy foods. It’s kinda the thought of “oh well I blew it already, might as well keep going”.

    Indulging while enjoying, with zero regret makes it easy to think “yep that ice cream was good” time to get back to eating right.

    Maybe it’s just me but that simple shift in mindset does wonders.

  10. I was just having a conversation with someone last night about this very topic. In my own experience, I feel the negative thought processes I have about eating certain foods causes more damage (perhaps) than the food itself. Crazy timing, and love the relevant research!

  11. Somebody ‘Sensishake’ me out of this madness…

    Paleo food porn works for me. A dripping piece of crispy pork belly is all I need to see.

  12. I don’t know if you are familiar with Marc David and the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. His work and coach training program address not only what we eat but who we are as eaters. As it turns out, our state of mind strongly influences how we metabolize our food.

    1. I think some cultures intuitively know this. And there is also the aspect, I know in Chinese thinking at least, that the attitude with which you gather and cook the food in your kitchen directly affects how nourishing your body finds the food.

      The attitude of the chef is believed important in other cultures too, meals created with a poor, sour attitude aren’t as nourishing as those created with care and love.

  13. Hahahaha….I love that…”food porn”…I’m going to add some to my other porn collection (pics of men doing chores)….lol

  14. You make good points. During the early stages of switching to primal eating I would feel guilty about my weekend donut to the point where I didn’t enjoy it anymore. Now I have a much more positive attitude about food, and the funny thing is I don’t even crave donuts anymore.

    Your idea to have paleo food porn at your desk at work is a great idea, one that I intend to implement.

    What I do now is pack a jar of what I consider an indulgence: coconut oil, 99% dark chocolate, soaked and roasted pecans, and grass-fed butter. That’s my lunch desert, and I love it. I look forward to it every day.

    I think we need to do much more research on the power of the mind to affect the body.
    Plus, I look forward to my weekend indulgence. Not donuts. Now I make coconut macaroons.

  15. My daughter has said this to me a few times, “Mommy, how can you never eat junk food?”. Then I saw her little journal from school….”My mommy works out every day and never eats junk food”. I was honestly questioning whether this would contribute to giving her some type of eating disorder. I don’t want her to feel weak because she enjoys “junk” now and then….and I try to take it easy on saying “that is garbage and does nothing for your body”. SO….the last couple of weeks I have eaten a couple of handfuls of potato chips with her. I know, I’m a Bad Apple….but at least there is some resistant starch!

    But I do want her to have all the education on food and the body’s response to it, that I can give her, so I shalt not be quiet! lol

    1. I love potato chips! I never feel bad about eating them, as long as I don’t eat them to the point of feeling disgusting.

      1. there’s this one brand.. I forget the name of it… but they fry their potatoes in avocado oil instead of the usual canola or peanut. pretty good! unfortunately, I can’t ever get homemade potato chips to taste like the store bought ones… 🙁

        1. Good Health Inc. Kettle Style Avocado Oil Potato Chips Sea Salt

          Vitacost carries them…

    2. Leading by example is the best thing to do, I think. If you’ve got a healthy attitude to food, she will absorb it subconsciously and develop the same attitude. Unless you’re displaying orthorexic behaviors like obsessing about food, counting calories, ranting about the evils of junk food, and so on, I wouldn’t worry.

      When I have kids, I’m going to just focus on cooking yummy things for them and enjoy food with them. I love to eat, I think that food cooked from real ingredients is delicious, and I hope to pass on that attitude to my kids. Food is a pleasure, and the real problem with junk food is that it just doesn’t taste all that great. There are better things to eat.

    3. I think you can just gently explain that you like to eat food that makes you feel good, and junk food doesn’t make you feel good. You’re not putting her down for what she eats, but instead emphasizing that certain foods make us feel either good or bad (physically). I feel like this approach will help her have a good relationship with food because you’re not attaching emotions or self-worth to it. You’re also not referencing weight or physical appearance. It’s solely about health.

      1. Or – even better – explain that junk food just doesn’t taste good to you, and you like to eat food that tastes good. “Healthy food” vs. “unhealthy food” is also a fairly fraught sort of thing, and gets into all sorts of emotional minefields that you just don’t want to go into with a child. Yes, an adult is capable of long-term thinking (i.e. “If I eat gluten today, I get a bloated stomach tomorrow”) – but a child is not. A child is thinking “yum” or “yuck”.

        What I think is good to do is to develop the gourmet instinct in the kid. Feed them such good food that they won’t want to touch inferior stuff. Play on the “yum” vs. “yuck” thing, and associate junk food with “yuck”.

  16. The mind – body connection can be powerful and underestimated. I’m at the point where I prefer fresh, wholesome food as opposed to so-called “comfort food”. Sometimes my wife prepares a dish that is not optimal from a health standpoint, but I might eat some of to please her (she knows my preferences and we’ve discussed many times) and I try not to beat myself up about it, it’s an exception rather than the rule, and as this article indicates you may be causing more damage with regrets rather than just enjoying something as an occasional indulgence.

  17. I already feel better after my breakfast of eggs and SensiBacon™.

  18. Yes yes yes. I don’t get this American obsession with guilt over food choices. The only time to feel guilty over food is if you take it out of a starving child’s hands.

    I love to eat, I enjoy a good meal, and I refuse to feel guilty over anything I eat – yes, even bread. I don’t eat it too often, but when I really want a slice of bread or a pastry (or when a social situation demands it), I just eat the damn pastry and don’t stress about it. I think that mental health is more important than physical health, and food obsessions are not mentally healthy.

    My mother almost ended up in the hospital when she got over-strict on her diet (a vegan diet with no salt will do that to you). My father is currently on the Ornish plan and going completely crazy, and losing weight he can’t afford to lose. I keep trying to convince them that it’s not healthy, and failing. Orthorexia is a real thing and it can seriously hurt you.

    1. I think it may (at least in the US) be part of that old Puritan ethic. “If you aren’t suffering, you arent trying.”
      Eating should be pleasurable, not make you miserable. Excercise should be fun, or at least productive. Your job shouldn’t stress you out to the point of depression or anxiety. You shouldn’t feel guilty for just lounging for a while and not accomplishing anything.
      There’s a reason Puritans were kicked out of Europe. They were a major buzz-kill.

  19. I thank my mom for most of my food-related guilt training. Unfortunately, I learned my lessons really well and have become quite good at wielding the guilt stick.

  20. Sorry his is long…

    I sent this article to several friends when it came out. It’s not that it struck me as balanced writing or the conclusions he came to, it was this small nugget that lit up my brain that day. (Excerpt below) If we BELIEVE we are doing what’s right for our health, then we have eliminated a huge chunk of stress. By eliminating the stress of “I’m so fat, I’m unhealthy, I wish I could DO something about it,” we let our bodies function, heal and thrive as they were meant to. I’ve been Paleo for about a year now and at the beginning tried to convince all my friends. The point is, no diet or lifestyle is going to work, unless you believe in it. Research has shown that almost ANY diet, when followed with exacting attention will usually produce results. Are those results in part due to this idea of ‘belief in the diet,’ in and of itself? I feel best eating this way – because it’s truly better for me, or because I believe it’s better for me…? Don’t know, but I am at peace with my choices and my lifestyle, and that component alone probably has as much to do with feeling great as any single food I’m eating, or not eating.

    Go back and read some success stories with this concept in mind. It’s amazing how many times you’ll see, “and when I read about the paleo diet, something just clicked, it made so much sense to me!” All the white noise falls away, the single minded belief kicks in and the pounds melt away! We all need a scapegoat and a silver bullet sometimes!

    “I also find it sad that because his book is filled with a whole bunch of nonsense, that’s why it’s a bestseller; that’s why we’re talking. Because that’s how you get on the bestseller list. You promise the moon and stars, you say everything you heard before was wrong, and you blame everything on one thing. You get a scapegoat; it’s classic. Atkins made a fortune with that formula. We’ve got Rob Lustig saying it’s all fructose; we’ve got T. Colin Campbell [author of The China Study, a formerly bestselling book] saying it’s all animal food; we now have Perlmutter saying it’s all grain. There’s either a scapegoat or a silver bullet in almost every bestselling diet book.”

    The recurring formula is apparent: Tell readers it’s not their fault. Blame an agency; typically the pharmaceutical industry or U.S. government, but also possibly the medical establishment. Alluding to the conspiracy vaguely will suffice. Offer a simple solution. Cite science and mainstream research when applicable; demonize it when it is not.

  21. I was actually just thinking along these lines the other day when I explained to a co-worker that I much more enjoy things that go ON pasta (like the meat and sauce) rather than the pasta itself, so I tend to just have more of the good stuff and skip the pasta. Then I started thinking about how when I started to truly BELIEVE that, and that belief manifested into a real preference. Kind of interesting to think about.

    Mindset is a huge factor in our daily lives, in all areas. I just started a second Whole30 to help me get ready for a triathlon, and was thinking about how easy it was not to feel deprived while on the plan because I’ve decided ahead of time I’m going to eat a certain way. When I took a two-week hiatus from Whole30 (with all intent on staying 80/20 primal), I ended up indulging in a lot of non-primal fare; I remember thinking, “It’s okay because I’m starting Whole30 again in a week!” Then immediately thinking, no, that’s not how it works…but then ate the cookie/bread/whatever anyway. It was bizarre, especially since I was reflecting/analyzing my own psyche as it was kind of happening. The mind is a wonderful thing.

  22. This is deeply profound!
    “No one has ever gotten healthier by feeling worse about themselves. Beating ourselves with an emotional stick won’t result in any positive change and will only block our ability to give ourselves wholly to the present choice of how we want to live in this moment.”

    It impacts our ability to deal with or initiate change of all kinds in our lives.

  23. Years ago we made the switch to “salad plates” for our dinner plates and bought tiny bowls at the “Dollar” store that hold about what you can in your hand for ice cream. That has worked out well for us, no over eating unless we want to get up and get more. I even put the dinner plate back at my in-laws house and use a salad plate there as well, otherwise a normal portion of food looks to them like I’m going to starve to death right there a the dinner table. 😛
    I try to eat well all the time so the occasional bowl of something “naughty” goes down with enjoyment.

  24. I agree completely with all the comments about feeling guilty about eating something. In fact, I refuse to use the word “cheating” when it comes to food that’s not primal/paleo. I just evaluate the effects (positive and negative) I will experience if I eat said food, then either eat it and enjoy the moment, or I don’t. But positive “self-talk” about eating primally really makes a difference for me: I never think or say to others “that’s something I can’t eat.” Instead, I say “it’s something I don’t eat.” The difference seems subtle, but it isn’t- with “can’t eat” you’re establishing a condition of deprivation, and making guilty feelings more likely. I don’t eat birthday cake at work because it makes me feel crappy; not I can’t eat cake because it’s not in the rules.

  25. I worked at a clothing store where the owner sent out invitations to her best customers for a big sale with champagne and goodies. Well before the sale she discovered that it was against the law to serve alcohol at a clothing store, so they made a substitution. People were getting tipsy acting from drinking the non-alcoholic punch and being silly. Those in the know were snickering behind there hands at those who were acting soused.
    Oh the power of the mind!

  26. This is strange. After all, isn’t it calories, calories out? If the shakes were the same they should not have gained weight.

    I can believe that the placebo effect affected their satiety and hunger levels though.

    1. The subjects in the shake test didn’t gain any weight, that was the housekeeper/exercise study.

      I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I say to myself and to others when confronted with a food choice… the ‘can’t’ versus ‘don’t’. I really need to make ‘don’t’ my standard response. That will make the difference in how I will feel about my choice as well as the message I’m putting out to family/friends/co-workers. Although I don’t indulge often, I am pretty good about shaking it off and moving forward with little to no guilt.

      A couple of weeks ago I was out shopping with a pregnant friend who was craving a dunkin donut so I indulged with her. 2 – 3 hours later I was so sick I couldn’t eat dinner. Experiences like that make it so much easier to make better choices the next time 🙂

  27. This, alas, suggests that results from any nutritional trials are going to be suspect unless the protocol was double blind. DB can be challenging, as foods have distinct tastes, flavors, mount feel, etc.

    PS – we make GF LCHF “paleo donuts” from time to time. You can eat these all day long, with no rise in BG, and of course, no guilt. Of course, they produce rapid satiety and lack the addictiveness of wheat flour, so gorging is unlikely. Such a product may eventually come to market, although perhaps not soon enough to save Krispy Kreme.

  28. This reminds me also of the research about resisting temptation or other willful extertions the brain must make an effort to manage: At some point, there is exhaustion like happens in a muscle. It makes sense to me that if you believe you are full or satisfied, you won’t need to expend this effort as much as someone who doesn’t, and so you are less likely to push that “resistance” function to failure.

    (I am not suggesting this is what happened in the research in this post, only that it reminds me of this other topic).

    This speaks directly to the comments above and on many other threads about how much easier everything is when “choices” transmute themselves into one’s identity or just become not-choices anymore.

    Back to the research, I wonder how much I successfully do this to myself because I will eat something with a lot of fat in it (e.g. cheese, piece of bacon) and tell myself I will feel satisfied because I “know” fat = satiety!

  29. Wow this is so fascinating and really a little disturbing considering the conflicting nutrition information we receive. Everyone knows how it is. They told us saturated fat was bad. Could it really have been clogging your arteries if you “knew” that? Could something cause cancer if you believed it did? Or kill cancer if you believed it did?

    I’ve also wondered about whether exercise is good for you if you’re not enjoying it. So for instance when I go for a walk in miserable weather and my face is stinging cold. Was that really good for me?

  30. Why Food Has No Taste and the Government Lied About Taste Buds
    (all food is placebo)

    Have you ever eaten something and then said “Mmm… that’s tasty?” What would you say if I told you that every food you have ever said that too actually had no flavor? It is the truth. No food has flavor.
    There is this thing called a placebo. Placebo, for example, is when you take a pill for a cold or something, and you are told of the effects to expect. After a few hours, you may begin to think you are feelings those effects, just because you were told to expect them, when in fact you have only taken a sugar pill.
    How does this relate to the taste of food you may ask? Almost everything in modern day grocery stores has a description of what the product is supposed to taste like. When you read these descriptions you are being told what to expect when you eat or taste it on its own, or when you put it in a meal to create a diverse flavor. This conspiracy is greater than just this however, the United States government is in on this as well. Maybe even the entirety of Earth’s world powers have created an alliance to convince the masses that the food that they are eating is actually something that carries its own unique flavor. They have even gone as far as the create the lie of taste buds.
    The taste bud conspiracy goes deep. You are taught of taste buds probably even before you hit the schooling age. This conspiracy goes as far as it even being taught in school. Teachers who are involved in teaching the most elementary sciences are teaching the youths of the world about the lie of taste buds. More like taste acquaintances. Amirtie? Yes. Anyways, taste buds are in fact just normal cells of the body and they are the texture that they are for the same reason that your teeth have different sizes and sharpness. Teeth in almost everyone’s mouths have different sizes for the chewing of foods. The taste buds that we are said to have are just cells with texture to help break down food!
    Foods are needed by humans to live. They still do carry nutrients that give us energy and everything, but nutrients do have flavor! Now, you may ask, why would they make up flavors, and then make the good foods that we need taste bad? I ask you, has the government ever been one to care about its citizens? They spray cancer chemicals in the air and then keep the cure that has been long developed from us! You can’t trust the government, and that is why you can’t trust them about flavor and taste buds especially.
    The government can’t be trusted as said previously. There have been studies done (I’m sure) about this well known and blatantly obvious truth about the lies we have constantly been told about food and it’s so-called “flavors”. This very truthful and well backed up conspiracy is extremely believed in by the masses and its believers have been very passionate thus far about this truth. If you do not believe in this you are wrong. End of story. The people who have read this essay have been recorded in a well protected data base with you name and numbers and addresses and if you still do not believe this obvious truth you will be invaded and taken to a camp where you will be tortured into believing what the masses have been educated on. This is clearly the truth and if you do not believe in the thus far truth then you will be taken to a place for the non believers. We are creating a utopia of believers. You will be burned at the stake as an example for those who can’t be saved by the truth. I am your Divine Leader.