The Hungry Mind

By Joyce Hendley, M.S.

EatingWell interviews Barbara J. Rolls, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan (HarperCollins, 2005)

"To be honest I read the first page of this article and got bored. But with the page I read, I felt as if I learned a little bit more about food and drinking water. "

Better known as “the food lab,” Penn State’s Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior looks like a series of anonymous dressing rooms. In these plain, curtained-off cubicles, where test subjects eat carefully prepared and measured foods, Barbara Rolls has been debunking some of the most enduring beliefs about eating and appetite.

Despite what diet gurus had espoused for decades, Rolls’s lab discovered that drinking water before meals has little effect on reducing hunger. Her work also unraveled the widely recommended advice that eating a variety of foods can help us eat less. In fact, she found, we eat more when we’re given lots of foods to choose from—and less when the range is so narrow that our variety-craving palates, in essence, become bored and we stop eating. This concept explains the short-term success of those diets that have us eating nothing but cabbage soup—and their ultimate failure when our bored palates eventually fight back.

Rolls is widely acknowledged to be the nation’s top authority in the study of satiety, the sense of fullness that signals the body we can stop eating. Her book Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan (HarperCollins, 2000) is one of the rare bestselling weight-loss books to also win widespread kudos from weight-control experts.

Next: More of Joyce's research findings »

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