Here is a situation: you are offered a ‘straight outta the oven’ decadent triple chocolate jumbo muffin. If this sounds tempting, you would likely feel a desire for this sweet treat. If so, you have experienced appetite. To further confirm this, would you like to eat a green apple? Likely not. However, if you answered yes, this is hunger.
It is important to distinguish between hunger and appetite. Hunger is your body telling your brain that your stomach is empty – a normal sensation that makes you want to eat. Appetite, on the other hand, is the desire for food usually experienced after seeing, smelling or thinking about food. Even after you feel full your appetite can make you keep going back for more.
Being aware of what your body needs is essential in order to improve the habits that set up how you feel every day. It sheds light on emotions that drive our eating decisions and motivations to exercise. It teaches us to check in with ourselves when we are stressed, tired or unhappy. Listening to your body (while it may sound cliché) is the key to developing a healthy relationship with food, our mind and our bodies.
Here are some considerations when faced with the desire to eat.
HungerThe desire to eat comes on suddenly and strong.The desire to eat comes on gradually.Requires instant gratification.Can wait until food is available.Easily influenced by smells, adverts in the media and emotions.Comes on naturally without outside influences.Crave specific comfort foods (salty, sweet or fatty foods).Open to eat a variety of foods for satisfaction.You often eat more than expected (mindless).You are aware (mindful) of what and how much you are eating.Likely to feel unsatisfied at the end of the meal.You are satisfied when your stomach is full.Feel strong cravings in your head.Physical stomach growling or loss of appetite/low hunger.May feel regret or guilt after eating.Less likely to feel guilty after eating.
Let’s be honest – it would be way too simple if we had a built in mechanism that controlled our hunger versus appetite cues which would help keep our body weight in check. Hunger and appetite are complex topics that are controlled by many factors. In a food and diet obsessed culture, it’s easy to lose touch with hunger and fullness cues. Moreover, to redevelop these cues won’t happen over night – Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? The trick? Be mindful.
This week I challenge you to pay close attention to what is driving your reason to eat – is it appetite or hunger?