Internal and External Cues of Meal Cessation: The French Paradox Redux?


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Objective: Our objective was to investigate whether people who use internal cues of satiation when eating a meal are likely to weigh less than people who instead rely on external cues. In addition to exploring the role that internal and external cues play in meal cessation, this study raises an overlooked explanation of the French paradox.

Research Methods and Procedures: A demographically-matched student sample of 133 Parisians and 145 Chicagoans completed a brief survey on meal cessation that asked the extent to which they agreed with statements associated with internal cessation cues and statements with external cessation cues. Their answers to these were compared across BMI levels and across countries.

Results: Normal-weight people indicated that they were more likely to be influenced by internal cues of meal cessation (p = 0.043), while overweight people indicated that they were more influenced by external cues (p = 0.005). Similarly, while the French were influenced by internal cues of meal cessation (p < 0.001), Americans were more influenced by external cues (p < 0.001).

Discussion: This research revisits Schachter's externality hypothesis and suggests that one's over-reliance on external cues may prove useful in offering a partial explanation of why BMI might vary across people and potentially across cultures. Relying on internal cues for meal cessation, rather than on external cues, may improve eating patterns over the long term.