Get this — the nutrition labels on your packaged foods may be more powerful than you are aware. Sure, they provide some sort of transparency to processed foods — clarifying how much fat, carbohydrates, and calories you are dumping into your body. But your perception and reaction to this information can drastically alter how you digest meals. Yes, your conscious mind can actually control the way your body metabolizes food.
First, let’s take a step back. When you become hungry, it’s because your body needs fuel and produces the hormone grehlin to signal hunger. The more grehlin in your body, the less satisfied and hungrier you are. Increased levels of grehlin also slow your metabolism in preparation for food shortage — thanks to our survivalist ancestors. When grehlin levels diminish, that means you have consumed a hearty meal and your metabolism speeds up to take advantage of it. One would assume that this process is entirely calorie dependent. But, it seems that your mind may be able to control and override your grehlin levels. Crazy.
This breakthrough idea comes from a study by Amelia Crumb, who conducts research at Columbia Business School. Believing that labels have consequences by evoking a specific set of beliefs about the food, she began by whipping up a large batch of French vanilla milkshakes. After splitting it in half, one half was labeled “sensishake” and touted as fat-free, light, and 104 calories. The other half was “indulgence” and labelled as 640 calories with plenty of fats and sugars. Of course, they were all identical, coming in at 300 calories a portion. Half of the participants were given the supposed “diet” shake, while the other half drank the “heavier” shake. Their grehlin levels were measured pre and post shake.
Incredibly, the consumers of the splurge shake had grehlin levels low enough to suggest that they had actually consumed a 600-800 meal, rather than the 300 calorie shake they actually drank. This means their metabolisms were working faster to process and burn up the small meal because the brain perceived it as heavy. This was especially apparent when compared to volunteers who drank the sensishake, who still had lingering levels of grehlin even though the drinks were identical.
What does this mean exactly? It means that our mind has control over grehlin levels and our overall metabolisms due to how we perceive a meal. After reading nutrition labels, you may make a judgement on how healthy or indulgent that food is for your body. This judgement actually affects how your body reacts to and processes that meal. The mind is incredibly powerful. Check out the above video for more information.
The moral of the story? Eat natural foods and indulge in their rich, complex, satisfying flavors. Considering meals more wholesome or satisfying may actually help to boost your metabolism. Try to look at foods as hearty, nutrient-rich, and nourishing rather than healthy, light, or low-calorie. You’ll be less stressed about food, more positive, and more balanced in mind and body.