Whenever I have the opportunity to venture off campus to get dinner with friends, no evening is ever complete without dessert. While my friends and I typically don’t peruse the dessert menus at restaurants because we’re #broke college students, no one ever objects to going out for ice cream.

Once we arrive at an ice cream shop, some will realize how full they are from the substantial meal they had eaten just minutes ago. Others (like myself) just can’t turn down ice cream. And, when asked how I can keep eating, I resort to the expression I heard about a year ago: I have one stomach for dinner and another for dessert.

The origin of the dessert stomach

Okay, so obviously, we don’t have two stomachs. I, too took first grade health class. But, there is a reason behind why there is—more often than not—room for dessert.

“Dessert stomach” can be attributed to “sensory-specific satiety.” This phenomenon is defined as “the declining satisfaction generated by the consumption of a certain type of food and the consequent renewal in appetite resulting from the exposure to a new flavor or food.” Thanks Wikipedia. You da man.

In other words, we develop sensory boredom from the food we’ve been eating once we're presented with other foods that have different tastes, textures and colors. This will decrease our appetite for the food we’re eating before something new is introduced.

Several signals work together to product this feeling of “satiety.” The small intestine releases the substance, cholecystokinin, or CCK, which triggers the release of digestive enzymes from the gallbladder and pancreas. CCK has also been found to serve as a hunger suppressant. This results in satiation, and ultimately a reduction in eating. In addition to this, stretching receptors will work to allow the stomach to create more room (for dessert).

Let me paint you a scene.

You’re at a restaurant and you order something inherently exciting, like a burger and fries. The first bite is always the best. The second is bomb, too. And the third? Still appetizing. But, as you feast on that burger, you become full, satiated and maybe even a little bit bored.

You turn to your left and someone at the next table is devouring a strawberry-glazed cheesecake. Your focus is no longer on the burger. When you stop eating, the server presents you with the dessert menu. The feeling of being full from the burger and fries is overshadowed by your immediate attraction to the words "warm apple crumble,” “chocolate hazelnut mousse cake,” and salted caramel crème brûlée.” #sexy

Because you’re introduced to a new array of food options consisting of various cakes, pastries and ice cream flavors, you become excited again because those flavor profiles contrast what you were previously eating—and what you were bored with. Sorry, 'lil fries. Don't worry, you still cute.

It is important to note that sensory-specific satiety could lead you to eating more than you typically would, which accounts for why it could be difficult to avoid overeating at a buffet.

The sensory-specific satiety phenomenon is not limited to savory food, however. It proves to be true for desserts, as well. After feeling full from indulging in that warm chocolate lava cake, you may crave something salty, like potato chips, popcorn or pretzels. 

As difficult as it may be to resist dessert, it is important to limit your sugar intake and develop healthy eating habits that will get you in a routine of consuming less sweets.

Yes, you know what that means. Willpower.

…Or, eat that dessert. What good will deprivation do anyway?