Your Inner Child May Spoil Your Diet

Kids who went hungry may overeat as adults, TCU psychology professor finds

This story by Shirley Jinkins originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Endeavors magazine.

A childhood marred by poverty and food insecurity can stay with people as they age, even manifesting as adult obesity. Sarah Hill, associate professor of psychology, published two recent studies exploring the subconscious mind’s powerful influence over the urge to eat.

Photo of Sarah Hill

Sarah Hill, associate professor of psychology in the College of Science & Engineering (photo by Carolyn Cruz)

“When you grow up in an environment of unpredictability, it often includes unpredictability in access to food,” Hill said. “What we hypothesized was growing up poor would lead people to eat when they were not hungry.”

Uncertainty about the availability of meals often causes people to overeat. “It makes sense to eat when you’re not hungry because you can store calories,” she said. “That’s been the case throughout most of [humankind’s] evolutionary history.”

Read more in Endeavors.