Why you want dessert…even when you’re stuffed

Why we eat ice cream, even when we're full


Don’t pretend that you have never eaten dessert, even after a really big meal. I know you have. We all have!  Often, we’ll claim we have that tiny little spot left, right there for some of that cheesecake or a trip to the ice cream store, even when our bellies are bloated and when our bodies are clearly telling us it’s time to stop eating.
So why do we do this to ourselves!?


It’s because of Sensory Specific Satiety or “Chasing the high.”


Sensory Specific Satiety is the sensory experience of decreasing satisfaction with the same type of food. Our taste buds will often become saturated with flavor very quickly and we might continue to eat with the false hope that we can re-activate that powerful flavor bomb we experience in the first few bites. Yet, once saturated, there needs to be a refractory period (yes, not unlike that other type of refractory period) before our taste buds will activate again.

One of the reasons buffets are so popular and that individuals will eat more than normal at them is the variety of items with varying flavor profiles. Once we become saturated with one type of food, we attempt to get the flavor “high” with another type of food be it a dessert, something spicy or even a bitter component.

“A study conducted by Rolls and van Duijvenvoorde in 1984 verified this process by simulating a buffet-style meal. They fed participants four meals that included sausages, bread and butter, chocolate dessert, and bananas. They then fed the participants four courses of one of these foods. The results revealed a 44% increase in overall food consumption when exposed to the meals with a variety of foods.”

This is yet another reason to slow down, notice the flavors on your tongue and appreciate them with awareness because the excitement of those first few bites will diminish with each additional attempt to achieve that same “high.”


Other reasons we eat the dessert even if we’re mega-full



1.   Everyone else is and you don’t want to feel left out


2.   Your meal wasn’t particularly yummy or satisfying so you feel like you need to seek a pleasurable food even if you are not hungry for it.


3.  You were raised always having dessert as a child and it becomes part of your food script despite not really needing or even wanting it.


4.  You feel the need to put a period at the end of a meal.


5.  You have FOMO and worry that if you don’t take advantage of it, especially if it’s something special like a thanksgiving pie, it won’t come round again for a long time.


6.  You have a nagging feeling that you just want something sweet, even if just a little bit.


7.  Its brought out at an event or restaurant and you eat it simply because it’s there.



We often chastise ourselves for wanting or needing dessert. We moralize the situation and feel that we must be out of control if we are overeating when our bodies are practically screaming at us to stop. Try ending the moral food fight and devote yourself to a intrinsic check-in instead.


“Stop, look and listen” to your body and your cravings. There is nothing wrong with wanting a small sweet bite at the end of a meal, even if you technically don’t need any more nourishment. When we eat slowly, allow pleasure and awareness into the eating experience and adopt an abundance mindset around food in general – trust me you will be able to stop after a bite or two. Let me show you exactly how that is done.  Book a free 30-minute dietary detective session with me.


And let me finish this article with these other fascinating little extra knowledge bombs about our taste buds!


The average person has between 2000-8000 taste buds. They regenerate each week.


Our taste buds are responsible for how we perceive flavor and taste.


Some people are “supertasters” and have additional taste buds that are sensitive in particular to bitter foods.


We have taste buds mostly on our tongues but we also have them in the back of our throat and even on our epiglottitis!



Myth! – We do not have parts of our tongue responsible for noticing different flavors – each part of the tongue can experience sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami. In general the sides of our tongues are more sensitive to flavor and the back of the tongue can detect bitter in a more pronounced way.



Taste buds evolved in humans so that we could detect poisonous foods versus safe foods. The bitter sensitivity on the back of our tongues makes sense so that we can spit out foods that might be poisonous before swallowing them.



What about you?  Do you feel compelled to eat dessert, even when you’re full?

4 thoughts on “Why you want dessert…even when you’re stuffed

  1. What a great post! I always prefer to have a dessert over a starter. Especially cheesecake!

    1. jennyberk says:

      Yes! Cheesecake is essential! lol. Thanks for your comment Elizabeth!

  2. Wow.. this was great to read! I like that its OK to eat dessert!

    1. jennyberk says:

      absolutely it is! Just savor and enjoy it and be present for the experience!

Comments are closed.