Maintaining a healthy appetite for food and attitude towards food is essential for any weight loss program. Eating too little food can cause the body’s functions to slow down in order to conserve energy, making it hard to lose weight. Eating too much means the body stores more calories than it consumes leading to weight gain.
Moreover, it is important to eat when feeling physically hungry and to enjoy food rather than feel that it is a guilty pleasure.
Factors Affecting Appetite
There are many physiological and psychological mechanisms affecting our daily patterns in consumption of food. Appetite is co-ordinated through the interaction of various complex systems within the body involving the gut and the brain. Genetic factors and the environment also have a role to play in food intake1 . Here are a few examples of how appetite is affected:
- Physical activity: higher food intake is associated with increased physical activity. However, regular exercise will help regulate appetite and help limit excess food consumption.
- Metabolism: people with naturally high metabolic rates have higher appetites. If you are dieting it is important to maintain your metabolic rate by eating and exercising regularly.
- Hormones: there are many different hormones at play within the body – ghrelin is secreted by the stomach to tell you that you are hungry and insulin is secreted by the pancreas to tell you that you are full.
- Temperature: cold climates has a tendency to be associated with an increase in appetite – this could be due to the body needing to warm itself up quickly, or because dark days mean that people are not getting enough sunlight which causes depression and people eat out of comfort.
- Palatability: the tastier the food, the greater the pleasure derived from the food and the greater the appetite will be. On the other hand, it is argued that having food that is very bland will cause overeating because one does not feel satisfied from the food.
- Psychology: stress and boredom often result in increased food intake. The best way of avoiding this is to exercise regularly – this will help you to relax and to reduce boredom.
- Social influences: eating habits are often influenced by one’s upbringing – the three meals a day routine is often a cause for eating out habit rather than out of hunger. Many social events, such as Christmas celebrations, revolve around eating, drinking or both.
1 Wellcome Trust : The anatomy of appetite