Curb Hunger with This Simple Thought

Medically reviewed in September 2021

To feel more satisfied with your food -- and possibly avoid pigging out -- use this mind trick: Just focus on the calories.

Doing so could dial down your hunger big-time -- especially if you convince yourself you're indulging in a rich, high-calorie treat. Because new research shows that people's perception of calorie content affects their appetite-control hormones.

Mind over Hunger Pangs
In a study, researchers gave a small group of college students the same 350-calorie milk shake but told half the students that it was an indulgent 650-calorie treat. The other half thought it was a sensible 140-calorie snack. And what the students thought had a huge impact on how many hunger hormones their bodies produced. For the students who thought they were drinking a creamy, high-cal shake, their bodies' production of hunger-inducing ghrelin totally nosedived. But in the other group? Not as much. Which led researchers to conclude that just the perception of calorie intake can alter hunger-producing body chemistry.

Appetite-Lowering Logic?
Most of us typically underestimate our calorie intake. So getting an accurate picture of how many calories you're taking in at breakfast, lunch, and dinner could be a good place to start when it comes to keeping hunger hormones at bay. Outside of that, it's not clear whether it will help to tell yourself something's high in calories when it isn't. But researchers think it might, because the study strongly suggests that people's expectations, mindset, and perceptions can play a bigger role in hunger-hormone production and feelings of satiety than the actual number of calories being eaten.

Need to lose a few? Try these two other hunger-halting strategies, as well:

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