It’s normal for us to stuff our faces over the holidays — normal, if not ideal. But science can help explain why we eat so much even when we’re full, as well as answer the puzzling question of why kids suddenly say they don’t like a food they usually enjoy.
Photo by Tom Powers.
The Guardian explains that it’s all because of a phenomenon called sensory specific satiety (SSS):
The thinking behind SSS is that because humans are omnivores, and we must eat a variety of foods to survive, we evolved this mechanism to keep us from sticking doggedly to our favourite food and consequently getting ill, and/or prematurely popping our clogs. Marion Hetheringon, professor of biospychology at the University of Leeds, describes the process nicely: “If I’m eating a food like pasta, it will taste good at the beginning. Then when I’m halfway through it doesn’t taste quite as good — I might add some more sauce to make it taste better, or I might say I’m going to switch to salad now — I’ve had enough of the pasta.” This happens subconsciously. In fact even people with amnesia who not only forget what they’ve just eaten, but have no idea whether they’ve eaten at all, still express SSS. Served repeated, identical meals, they will continue to eat them, but they find them increasingly unpleasant.
It’s our craving for variety, then, that makes consuming chocolate cake and then ice cream so easy to do after already eating a lot.
Kids have greater SSS. The article suggests parents should not try to force them to finish something they don’t want, because children need to learn to trust their internal hunger signs.
The science of stuffing your face at Christmas [The Guardian]