Do You Want More Food or Just a Different Taste?
You may have noticed that you never have to save room for dessert. For most of us, even if we’ve eaten plenty during a meal, it always seems like we have room for sweets. Some people even like to say they have a separate dessert stomach.
That’s not strictly true, of course – humans, unlike some other animals, only have one stomach – but there are a couple of reasons why it can feel like you can have dessert no matter what you’ve already eaten.
And once you know those reasons, it may be easier to tell if you’re really still hungry or if you just want a different taste experience.
When you start eating more mindfully, one of the fascinating things you’ll notice is that the first few bites of food taste the best, especially if you’re hungry when you eat. After those first bites, you’re no longer quite as hungry, and you’ve also started down the path of sensory specific satiety.
What happens is that when you’ve had your fill of a certain type of food, you experience sensory specific satiety. That means you’re no longer interested in having more of that food because you’ve had enough of that particular flavor, texture, and/or temperature.
I’ve certainly experienced this when eating a big salad. While I might enjoy the cool, crisp vegetables for a while, at some point, I want something different, preferably something that’s soft, maybe creamy or warm, and perhaps sweeter than the salad.
So for many people, when they’ve eaten a balanced meal, they’ve had plenty of savory foods, but their taste for something sweet hasn’t been satisfied yet.
Physical fullness cues
The other primary reason you may feel like you have room for dessert is that the fullness signals from your stomach haven’t gotten to your brain yet. This means you could still feel a little hungry, even if, in reality, you’ve had enough food.
It also doesn’t help that you can usually eat desserts quickly because most of them don’t require much chewing. You could eat quite a bit of a dessert before the fullness cues hit your brain. By then, you may also notice that your stomach feels uncomfortably full, and you wish you had something with an elastic waist (or you’re glad you are wearing something with an elastic waist).
One of the best ways to avoid getting to that super uncomfortable, so-full-you-might-be-sick feeling is to slow down while you eat.
This will do a couple of things. First, while eating your meal, this will give more time for your brain to catch up to your stomach and notice that you’re starting to feel full. In that case, you could stop eating a bit early to save some room for dessert.
Of course, even if you feel physically full after your meal, you might still want a little dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth. Eating slowly here will help, too, because it can help you notice that you don’t necessarily need to eat the whole dessert.
You might find that just a few bites, or half the dessert, is enough, and you can save the rest for later when you can appreciate it without feeling overfull.
You don’t have a separate dessert stomach
No matter what anyone tells you, you don’t have a separate stomach for desserts. It might be nice if we all had one, but since we don’t, it helps to pay attention to how you’re feeling while eating.
After all, even though you can eat more than you need, and dessert might taste good momentarily, it’s not much fun if you then feel like you’re about to burst because you’ve eaten too much.
Instead, slow down while eating. Put your fork or spoon down between bites. Pay attention as the meal goes on to see if you’re hungry or not. Then, if you still want dessert, try to eat that slowly, too – you may find a little goes a long way.