Hunger and Appetite

Hunger is a physiological state in which the body is using up nutrients and energy at a faster rate than they are being replenished. It generates strong responses such as thinking about food and taking action to find and consume food.

Hunger is characterized by:

  • Feeling faint
  • Light-headedness
  • Stomach gnawing, or hunger pains
  • Stomach gurgling
  • Difficulty concentrating

It is controlled by:

  • the “hypothalamus”, a part of the brain
  • blood sugar (serum glucose level)
  • how empty our stomach is
  • certain hormone levels, such as Ghrelin and Leptin

Difference Between Hunger and Appetite

Appetite is a conditioned mental desire or interest in food that we associate with the sight, smell, or thought of it. There is a difference between appropriate appetite and inappropriate appetite. Appropriate appetite accompanies hunger and diminishes once the stomach is full. Inappropriate appetite can override natural hunger. People can continue to eat after they are full and their blood sugar is high. Individuals may have no appetite for food even though they are very hungry, for example, when they are stressed or during an illness.

Losing Weight and Hunger

In order to lose weight, the majority of us will need to ignore at least some of our hunger pains as we try to decrease general food consumption. By simply ignoring hunger pains can send signals to the body to begin conserving energy and slowing it metabolic rate.

Reducing or controlling one’s appetite is one of the ways to dieting successfully and losing weight permanently. This means slowly reducing the appetite and start to listen to the body’s hunger signals. By eating enough to feed the muscle and maintain the body’s natural metabolism will help you lose weight. Coupled with exercise or an increased activity level, reduction in appetite will help weight loss.

Here are a few practical tips on how to deal with appetite:

  • Eat regularly, both planned meals and planned snacks each day
  • Avoid extended fasting periods except for religious occasions, to prevent ravenous hunger driving over-consumption
  • Eat foods that give you pleasure from time to time (once or twice a week)
  • Include lots of high fibre foods such as wholegrain cereals in your diet
  • Include lots of fruit and vegetables in your diet which contain lots of water and are therefore low energy-dense foods
  • Eat foods which are high in protein
  • Eat slowly, to allow your body to respond to the food and signal that you are full
  • Limit portion sizes
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