If you think hunger and appetite are the same thing, think again. Being able to distinguish between the two can help you to manage your weight and select healthier foods for you and your family.
Hunger is a physical sensation that’s triggered when your body needs food. Your brain detects signals like an empty stomach and lets you know that it’s time to refuel.
On the other hand, appetite is a desire to eat regardless of your physical condition. You may suddenly crave cookies because you see a TV commercial or smell them baking.
Lose weight with less effort by understanding the difference between hunger and appetite. These tips will help you adopt a healthy diet without feeling deprived.
Getting in Touch with Your Hunger Signals
Babies and animals respond naturally to their hunger signals, but many adults have become rusty. Learn how to listen to your body again.
- Practice moderation. Schedule meals and snacks for times when you’re a little hungry, but not ravenous. That’s likely to be when your stomach is starting to growl, but before you get dizzy or weak.
- Check in. Knowing when to stop eating is equally important. Pause midway through your meal to assess if you’re full yet. Move away from the table before you feel stuffed.
- Manage stress. Being able to relax boosts your health in many ways, including your capacity to recognise true hunger. Take up meditation or needle work.
- Slow down. It can take as much as 20 minutes for your brain to sense that your stomach is full. Put your fork down between bites. Chew your food thoroughly. Wait before taking a second helping.
- Eat mindfully. Reduce distractions. Sit down. Turn off the TV and your phone. Pay attention to your meal. Enjoy its appearance, texture, aromas, and flavors. (Download the first chapter of my Mindful Eating book for free!)
Taming Your Appetite
A healthy appetite helps you get essential nutrients that keep you strong. A little fine tuning will protect you from being a picky eater or overindulging.
- Wait 10 minutes. Pause before diving into a bowl of tortilla chips. It takes about 10 minutes for a craving to pass. If you’re still hungry, make yourself a salad and sprinkle a couple of crushed chips on top.
- Reduce your portions. Oversized restaurant helpings are so common they may seem like the norm. Just because it’s on the plate doesn’t mean you have to eat it all. Take part of your meal and put it in a take home container. You’ll probably be just as happy eating half a sandwich.
- Focus on volume. Foods high in fibre, water, and air allow you to eat bigger servings with fewer calories. Eat more beans and green vegetables. Sip broth or have a salad before your main course. Then it will be even easier to only eat part of your actual meal.
- Add in lean proteins. Lean proteins are especially effective at fighting cravings. Plan your menu around meat, dairy products, fish, beans, and eggs.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity suppresses appetite. Try working out first thing in the morning and shortly before meals.
- Sleep well. Good quality sleep and rest also boost your will power. Whenever possible, go to bed and rise at about the same time each day and night. Take a nap if you miss out on overnight slumber.
- Drink fluids. It’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger. Staying hydrated will make junk food less tempting. Carry a water bottle around with you and keep a pitcher and glass on your bedroom night stand.
- Consult your doctor. Certain medications can interfere with your appetite. Discuss any questions or concerns about appetite with your doctor.
Eat when you’re hungry and take control of your appetite. You’ll have a better relationship with food when you know how to respond to hunger and appetite signals.