Why do some people manage to say no to that extra slice of cake, yet others can’t resist? It’s important to understand the difference between hunger and appetite to help you keep a more balanced attitude toward food and eating.
We eat for two main reasons: hunger and appetite. Yet the practical difference between the two is remarkable. When you’re hungry, you eat 1 slice of cake. After that, your appetite may lead you to dish up a second serving. Why? Because it looks appealing or tastes good.
In other words, hunger is the need for food and is caused by the brain reading changes in the levels of hormones and nutrients in the blood, such as when your blood sugar levels dip hours after eating. Appetite, on the other hand, is the desire to seek or eat, which is most often influenced by our emotions, habits and memories, as well as the sight, smell and taste of food.
Unlike hunger, appetite is a learned behaviour which may mean you’re either in control of your own eating habits, or on the flip side, your appetite can override your hunger and fullness causing you eat more than you’d like.
Before you reach out for food, ask yourself: “Am I really hungry?” Then consider the following:
1. When was the last time you ate? If it was less than two to three hours ago, you’re probably not feeling real hunger.
2. Could a small, nutritious snack, rich in fibre (fruit) or protein (a handful of nuts), tide you over until the next meal? OR
3. Can you drink a large glass of water, wait 20 minutes, and then reassess whether it’s true hunger.
Plan ahead. Schedule your meals and snacks for times you’re a little peckish, but not ravenous. This is likely to be greater than 2-3 hours after your last meal.
Slow down. It can take 20-minutes for your brain to sense that your stomach is full. To slow down your eating, chew each bite a minimum of 10 times – or whatever it takes to really grind it into a mush. When you focus on chewing your food well, you’ll begin to notice new flavours and textures, and savour it more.
Mind Portions. Many people eat to clean their plates, using visual cues rather than hunger to tell them when they are finished. Use small plates, bowls and cups. Buy single-serving snacks or portion out servings in small bowls to avoid eating straight from the package.
Eat mindfully. To eat mindfully you need to eat with intention and attention. This means being fully present when you eat and taking pleasure from each bite.
Limit distractions. When distracted, you are more likely to use visual cues rather than hunger or satiety (feeling full) signals to tell you when you have eaten enough. Switch off all devices and TV. If that’s not an option, portion out a serving ahead of time and stick to it.