Rule 6 Take a Moderate Approach, part 2
When we overdo it at the table, the stomach expands beyond its normal capacity, sometimes to the point of severe discomfort. Digestion slows, especially if the foods are high in fat. Even so, we manage to “find room” for that last slice of pie. This kind of eating has nothing to do with nourishment or sustaining life. Eating to the point of pain and pants-loosening is the result of our brain saying: “This food is good; better get it while we can!” Our brains evolved when food was scarce. Because we need food to survive, our brains tell us that eating is pleasurable. Eating triggers the release of the feel-good brain chemical dopamine in the same area of the brain that is activated by addictive drugs. However, we do have a system that tells our brain when we have had enough. The bright lines in the images above are the vagus nerves, which connect the brain to the digestive system. They control foods’ movement through the digestive system, among many other jobs. When the stomach is full, the vagus nerve sends a “full” signal to the brain. The figure on the right is a binge eater, someone who gorges on food well after the brain receives the "full" signal. Not only does overeating strain the heart and gall bladder, it can stretch the stomach up to twice its usual capacity.
How can we help everyone at the table enjoy the meal at a more healthful pace? Starting with a hot, clear soup or broth is a clever way to signal the brain that you are beginning to get your fill before you have taken in many calories or fat grams. If you can also serve a mixed vegetable salad, lightly dressed, before the main dishes, even better. There is no need to swear off your favorite foods altogether. Turn your buffet plate into a tasting platter, choosing just a few spoonfuls of the high-fat, high-salt and sugary treats while adding more of the colorful vegetables and some lean protein. Slow down, join the conversation, and pay attention to your body's cues. Fill up on the pleasure of having your favorite people around the table, and you won't fall into the trap of gorging on too much unhealthful food.
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