You know the feeling: you’ve just eaten a great meal, you’re feeling nicely full and content, and then someone pulls out the dessert menu. Why, when you know you’re full and couldn’t eat one more bite of the main, can you always find room for dessert? It’s a problem that’s thrown many a healthy eater off course.
So what’s going on here? It turns out that it all comes down to the little known phenomenon of sensory-specific satiety. This refers to what happens when you gradually stop enjoying a particular type of food quite as much after you’ve been eating it for a while, despite the fact that you could still enjoy another type of food if it was offered to you.
As Cynthia Sass explains in a piece for Health.com: “When you eat one type of food, you develop a decreased appetite for that food compared to other foods with different tastes, textures, and colors. Sensory-specific satiety helps explain why it’s oh-so-challenging to avoid overeating at a buffet. It’s also why you always seem to have room for dessert.”
In fact, during a study conducted by researchers Rolls and van Duijvenvoorde in 1984, it was discovered that people could eat up to 40 per cent more at a buffet compared to a regular meal, simply because of the variety of foods on offer.
So what do you do if you still really, really want to eat that dessert? Well, why not try something healthier for your main instead? This way, you’ll still feel like you’ve given yourself what you want (what you want, what you really, really want) without feeling like you’ve just eaten a meal the size of an Olympic swimming pool. And that can only be a good thing, right?