Why you always have room for dessert

When I was a kid and was having trouble finishing my plate, I’d often feel like I was full. But as soon as dessert was served, I’d miraculously have room for the largest portion on offer. I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid to claim my dessert stomach had room when my regular one didn’t. It turns out this is actually a thing.

I recently watched a video with Dr. Doug Lisle speaking on how modern humans are driven by ancient instincts. The instincts that served our ancestors so well that every single one of them survived their childhoods, even during periods of famine and scarcity. It’s a remarkable thing when you consider that more than half of all the humans that have ever lived, did not.

We carry the genes of survivors. In addition to the remarkable ability we have to regulate our energy intake, so that the amount of food we consume matches our body’s requirements, we have an even better trick for sustaining through hard times.

We know when to stop eating. Our body can tell when we’ve consumed an appropriate amount of nutrients. But if we find a particularly rich food, we can eat it even if we are already full. Eating higher calorie foods, like nuts or meat, even if we weren’t hungry is what allowed us to survive through periods of scarcity. Dessert is nature’s way of fattening us up for winter. But Mother Nature is not the kind of mom who serves dessert every day.

When we eat dessert or high calorie snacks on a regular basis, something happens in our brains. We become conditioned to receiving that surge of calories. Being full actually becomes the signal to expect a hit of fat and/or sugar soon. If we don’t get it, we start craving it. This conditioned response makes it very difficult to stop overeating. Not only are we wired to be able to eat past the point of satiety, are brains are now begging us to do so.

One of the great things about eating a whole foods, plant-based diet is that we just don’t eat those processed food calorie bombs like ice cream and cake. With taste buds and brain pleasure centres tuned for real plant foods, those things aren’t even that appealing anymore.

This is one of the reasons I feel that jumping in to a wfpb lifestyle is actually easier than gradually transitioning. In just a few days the brain stops craving those high calorie foods and stops working against your efforts to reduce excess calories.

But whole plant foods can still be calorically dense. If you are struggling to lose weight, you may want to look at whether you are feeding your dessert stomach too often, because the dessert stomach always has room. It also possible that you have trained your brain to expect more calories just at the point that your stomach is full.

I lost almost 40 pounds when I switched over to a plant based diet without doing anything resembling dieting. I’ve kept that weight off for almost 2 years  now. But I still have a bit of flab around my middle that admittedly, I’ve had my entire life, but which I’d rather not. I’ve developed a habit of snacking on nuts and dried fruit in the evening while watching television and I’m going to stop for a while to see if that is contributing to extra weight I don’t actually need for hard times. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Dr. Lisle gives a great talk on the cram circuit (what I’ve called the dessert stomach) and other challenges to controlling weight in this video. You may have seen him speak about The Pleasure Trap, but this takes things another step further and is an hour very well spent, whether you struggle with weight or not.

The Cram Circuit

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