How to Control Fake Hunger

A need for food is a feeling, which comes from our minds, and in many cases it is not even a real hunger, it is just a fake sense triggered by our brains.

When we enter the grocery store and see shinny, bright, perfectly baked or packed food, such as big ripen red strawberries, we instantly feel hungry and find it hard to pass by.

However, studies show that this is just our brains maneuver to make us feel starving, when our stomach is ‘full’ but the eyes are ‘starving’.

In this world, full of judgments on what to eat, how much and when to eat, it is necessity to control fake hunger.

This can be done easily without falling into any ‘illogical’ eating tendencies or fashionable diet trends. Fake hunger can be comprehended by outwitting the strongest human opponents – the ‘first’ and ‘second’ brains.

The ‘first’ brain is in our head. It is a human organ, which serves as the center of the nervous system and is responsible of our hunger. How? Simply, by forming an early part of the digestive process or so-called cephalic brain response.

Ms. Samantha Prior, nutritional therapist, technical clinical advisor and trainer on food supplements ( ), explains cephalic brain response as our appetite stimulation through one of the senses, such as the sight or smell of a food.

‘Through senses the digestive process is stimulated by salivating and producing stomach acid all in preparation for the food you are about to eat’, says nutritionist.

This behavior is considered as a conditioned response to some of our favorite foods.

‘You may not even think you are hungry and then you walk past a bakery which cleverly pumps out that delicious smell of freshly baked goods and before you know it, you are in there buying every chocolate bun off the shelf’, says Samantha.

The ‘second’ brain is our gut because ‘many emotional messages are sent from our gut to communicate with our brain’, adds food therapist.

This is how our brain becomes our gut and out gut becomes our brain.

However, American Marketing Association study finds that knowing the external factors, which influences this process can help to draw the clear line between fake and real hunger (Xiaoyan Deng and Raji Srinivasa, Journal of Marketing).

The author of the study, Xiaoyan Deng, assistant Professor of Marketing at The Ohio State University, says that the study was created to show transparent packaging effects on hunger as this is the subject, which ‘hasn’t been looked at systematically’, previously.

‘Many snack packages are transparent ones’, he says. So it is important to understand that ‘the amount of food people eat is not only influenced by physiological hunger cues but also by various external cues’.

Food packaging is the main cue, which influences brain response and because of that we are not able to self-control our eating habits.

He says that, when he has a chance to choose, he is rather eating food from transparent than non-transparent packaging, because ‘non-transparent packaging blocks food visibility while transparent one keeps it clear’.

Besides, clear packaging helps to:

  • ‘Monitor the food left in a package and stop eating sooner’;
  • ‘Convey product freshness, nutritious ingredients and home-style look’


Rokas Kanciauskas is transparent food packaging quality support operator at Faerch Plast – one of the biggest suppliers for the European food industry. He explains the transparent food packaging production process and its’ requirements, bringing the idea of how the perfect package should look like and where we should pay the attention.

Credit: Xiaoyan Deng and Raji Srinivasa, Journal of Marketing

Video can be found here:

Ms. Sue Bradley, Eating Psychology Coach practitioner, who has more than 20 years of experience and is a founder of Eating Psychology UK ( ), explains the effect of transparent food packaging further.

‘Transparent packaging calms any anxiety people are feeling – so they can see that the food is not touching any other type of food’, says nutritionist.

In sterile or chilled environments, such as supermarkets, visual attractiveness of food is extremely important.

‘There, where we cannot rely on our sense of smell or touch to test out how ripe or safe to eat a food is – we have to trust our eyes to see the food and read the labels’, re-calls nutritionist.

However, interesting thing is that ‘we eat less large snacks but more small snacks from transparent packaging than non-transparent’, as shows Xiaoyan Deng and Raji Srinivasa study, published in Journal of Marketing.

‘The food in the transparent package is salient, which increases consumption (salience effect), but the transparent package enables consumption monitoring, which decreases consumption (‘monitoring effect’)’.

So why this happens and can this ‘fake’ eating habit be controlled?

Technical clinical advisor and meal planner Ms. Samantha Prior explains this as ‘our senses stimulation’ and says that ‘our brain needs to process the sights of food so that we can trigger our memories of a food to wet our appetite.’

‘If you close your eyes and visualize your favorite food you will most likely notice you begin to salivate as you imagine its taste and texture. You were most likely not hungry before you thought about this food.

If a snack is in a small wrapper, it is a size that you can comfortably manage without much of an appetite. A large portion looks overwhelming and overfilling and therefore less appealing.’

This clearly explains, why we are capable to eat less large snacks but more small snacks from transparent packaging.

However, it is important to grasp that a lot of is a habit of whether you are feeling hungry in real or just because of the trigger.

‘We eat in response to triggers; in the same way we smoke a cigarette. So watching a movie triggers a desire for popcorn; a break between tasks at work is a trigger for a cigarette.

The pre-frontal cortex is hijacked by the primitive brain. People have to learn how to bring the pre-frontal cortex back on line by using language and other proven techniques’, says Sue Bradley.

Triggers cause over indulgence: ‘eyes bigger than our bellies’, adds Ms. Samantha Prior.

‘If we are really hungry when we have a trigger we can make the wrong decision choosing sugary foods to give our body a quick sugar fix. We can eat the food too quickly, leading to overeating as it can take our body 20 minutes to realize we are full’.

In order to control fake hunger; you have to pay attention to food features, such as packaging and visual appearance.

Here are some options:

  1. Sue Bradley suggests outwitting your gut brains by taking every food in opaque package out of it or ‘don’t eat processed food that comes in packaging at all’ (!).

She says: ‘if you feel you will need a snack during the day, prepare it at home and take it with you’.

This surely will control the fake hunger, as homemade food is already introduced to your brain during the time you made it. So, it does not create fake hunger.

  1. If you don’t like making your own food, there is another option.

Nutritional therapist Ms. Samantha Prior suggests buying blood spot glucose monitors for those, who are not feeling confident enough to separate real and fake hunger, when buying food.

She says it is easy to connect them to your phone. ‘When glucose levels are low, it is time to eat’ and your phone will show this for you.

‘You will surprise yourself, you often you think you are hungry, yet your glucose measurements will suggest that you shouldn’t be eating at all. Overtime this will help you form new eating habits.

  1. In addition to this, keep meals to the size of your two fists put together, this is the size of your stomach’.

Aim to have six snacks a day rather than three big meals, this will sustain your energy and keep huger at bay, so you are less likely to eat everything in sight.

Make more conscious well planned decisions and your brains will start to grasp the difference between the ‘real’ and ‘fake’ hunger instantly.


Berta Balsyte

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