Suppose you wanted to lose weight and consulted a fitness professional who gave you a diet plan based on your body's food requirements. However, you find it difficult to stick to what they have suggested and feel like eating more.
Even though you are taking the food you need, you still find it difficult to cut down on your meals. So does that mean you are hungry? No! This happens because of your appetite, that is, your eating habits.
Hunger and appetite are two distinct concepts that may be confused sometimes. Hunger is the feeling you experience when your body needs food, while appetite is a desire to eat even when your body doesn't need it.
Hunger occurs when glucose levels in the blood drop too low, signaling your body that it's time to eat. On the other hand, appetite is your habit of eating a certain amount regardless of whether you feel hungry. Let’s go deeper to understand it more clearly.
What is Hunger & Appetite?
Looking at the dictionary explanation, hunger is the physical sensation of needing food and signals an energy deficiency in the body. It typically sets in when your body's glucose levels are low due to not eating enough or burning more calories than you have consumed.
On the other hand, appetite is an emotional response to food based on your habits, culture, and environment; it’s the desire to eat even when you don’t feel hungry.
What Influences Appetite?
Several factors can influence your appetite, including sight, smell, or food taste. Here is a list of things that can impact your appetite:
Eating too quickly can impact your appetite as it tricks your brain into thinking that you are eating too little. That is why eating slowly with mindfulness is recommended so your brain can register that you are eating your food and signal to your body that there is no need for fuel anymore.
We all have experienced overeating when the food is too good to resist, haven’t we? Surprisingly, cues like an attractive plate or sweet aroma can make you eat more. So if you are on a strict diet, maybe you should give up on your fancy utensils.
Peer Pressure and Social Influence
We enjoy food more when surrounded by people who make us happy. So you may eat more when eating with a friend beside you. Similarly, other social factors can impact your appetite. For instance, if you eat dinner with people who like to have larger portions, you may also eat more than your regular portion.
Social Media & Advertisement
Psychological manipulation through social media can also deeply affect your appetite and food choices. Several common food items in our diet may have become a part of our diet solely due to years of appealing advertisements.
Weighing the chances of this happening to you and addressing unhealthy diet patterns can help you rewire your eating habit and maintain a clean diet.
High Sugar Intake
A recent scientific study claims that consuming higher amounts of sugar can be an addiction as sugar boosts energy levels immediately and gives the brain a boost. This can adversely affect one’s health as it messes with the appetite and leads to overconsumption.
The need for higher sugar content makes it difficult for people to stick to a wholesome and balanced diet, as they may feel physically and emotionally low when not having the habitual amount of sugar.
Emotional and Psychological Factors
Another important point to note here is that scientific studies show that hunger can also be triggered by stress hormones that make you feel hungry. So if you also have a big appetite despite your efforts to eat less, know that it can be a symptom of emotional trauma where your brain is trying to cope with something stressful by eating.
People with chronic depression or anxiety often experience this. To overcome this, a person may need counseling or medicine to continuously beat the urge to eat.
People with hormonal imbalances may also experience excessive food cravings. This can lead to weight gain and other health issues. Anyone facing this issue needs proper medical consultation to determine how to treat it. Improving your diet and adding workouts also help to treat hormonal issues.
Why is It Important to Understand the Difference Between Hunger & Appetite?
Understanding the difference between hunger and appetite can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is because it’s important to differentiate between an actual need for food and an emotional desire to eat when trying to manage your diet or lose weight.
Eating only when you feel genuinely hungry will allow you to quickly reach your desired fitness goals. Once you understand your appetite, you can curate a balanced diet with planned meals and added supplements to support your fitness objectives.
In other words, understanding hunger and appetite can help you create more mindful eating habits, resulting in a healthier relationship with food.
Before we move ahead, please note that eating after you are full is not always unhealthy. Eating when you are in a good mood and celebrating with friends or family can be an enjoyable experience when done in moderation.
The key is to understand what your body needs. So try to listen to your body’s cues to determine when you can go for an extra plate of that fruit salad and when you need to stop.
How to Know If You are Hungry?
The best way to determine if you are truly hungry is to listen and pay attention to the signs your body sends. For instance, a growling stomach or feeling weak or light-headed can be physical signs of your body’s need for fuel.
However, if you aren’t sure if you’re genuinely hungry or it is just your brain seeking pleasure from eating, try drinking a glass of water and waiting for 10 minutes. If you’re still feeling hungry, then it’s likely that your body needs food.
Another way to know if you are genuinely hungry is to ask yourself what your body needs — if the answer is something other than food, like a nap or a break from work, then it is likely that you aren’t hungry.
You can also ask yourself a few other questions: What are your emotional states? Are you feeling bored, stressed, or anxious? If so, it may be an emotional need instead of a physical one. Finally, consider what type of food you want and how much of it. This can also indicate what your body is seeking. For instance, if you desire a sugar rush, you may feel like eating something sweet.
How to Curb Your Appetite?
While people on a diet often find it difficult to control the urge to eat, it is important to remember that cravings are completely normal. However, if you want to curb your appetite to cut down on unnecessary food intake, here are some useful tips for you:
Consuming More Protein & Fibre
Over the years, research has established that consuming protein and fiber makes you feel fuller. So adding more protein and fiber to your diet can help curb your appetite and be healthier. Some foods with high levels of protein and fiber include eggs, lentils, greek yogurt, chicken breasts, almond, and cottage cheese.
Increasing Your Water Intake
Drinking more water is a great way to keep yourself hydrated while decreasing your desire to eat. Water fills your stomach, so you do not eat impulsively to feel full.
Eating Smaller Meals Throughout the Day
Dieticians suggest smaller meals throughout the day instead of eating bigger portions at once. This tactic works because the body keeps getting the required fuel, so the brain does not demand food uncontrollably.
Drinking Herbal Teas or Lemon & Honey Water Before Meals
Remedies like having lukewarm water with honey and citrus before a meal or simply drinking herbal teas twice a day can also help you control your appetite.
Avoiding Sugary & Processed foods
To control the urge to overeat, one has to eliminate food items that may become addictive due to sugars and other additives. Many carbonated drinks and packaged food are designed to please your taste buds so that you consume them more. This is why it is important to reduce junk to lower your blood sugar and cholesterol to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
You must also replace it with healthy food and a good vitamin supplement to ensure your body gets all the necessary nutrients. With patience and consistency, you can eliminate bad eating habits and replace them with healthier ones.
Since stress can cause food addiction, managing it can help a person maintain a better relationship with food. There are several ways to manage stress; one of the most effective ones is to start working out regularly. Science has proven that physical activity promotes the release of dopamine, serotonin, and other relaxation enzymes in your body.
According to a study, regular exercise can contribute a lot to curing mental issues like anxiety and depression. So this can make a huge difference for those trying to fix unhealthy eating habits due to stress.
Plan Your Meals
Planning your meals can also play a huge role in ensuring that you eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods and avoid unhealthy snacks. When you plan out your meals ahead of time, it is less likely that you will reach for impulsively unhealthy food habits. Also, when you start your meals with deliberation and mindfulness, your brain knows when to stop as it registers how much you are eating, so it is less likely that you will continue eating for too long.
1. Is the loss of appetite the same as not being hungry?
No, loss of appetite is not the same as not being hungry. Loss of appetite occurs when a person has a decreased desire to eat or does not feel hungry even when they have not eaten in several hours.
This can be caused by physical or psychological factors such as stress, fatigue, certain medications, illness, and depression.
2. How do I know if I am starving while following a weight-loss diet?
A few signs can indicate if you are starving, such as feeling weak or light-headed, having a growling stomach, and feeling irritable. Another symptom of starvation is confusion, which a lack of vitamins and minerals can cause.
You may also experience headaches or colds all the time due to the body not having enough energy to regulate its temperature properly. If you experience any of these symptoms, you might be following a diet that is too strict for you.
3. Can overtraining cause weakness?
People who overtrain without taking care of their diet may have weaknesses. Hunger and weakness symptoms due to overtraining should be addressed quickly. Beginners starting a workout routine should consider that and make sure their diet plan and training routine are balanced.
For a quick solution for such weakness, taking a break from fitness activities and eating something is important to increase your blood sugar levels.
4. What makes you lose your appetite?
There are many potential causes for a loss of appetite. Common reasons may include stress or emotional distress, hormonal changes, pain or discomfort, medications, nausea or indigestion, fatigue or lack of energy, and overeating sugar and processed foods.
- Lin, Tzu-Wei, and Yu-Min Kuo. “Exercise Benefits Brain Function: The Monoamine Connection.” Brain Sciences, vol. 3, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 39–53. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci3010039
- Westwater, Margaret L., et al. “Sugar Addiction: The State of the Science.” European Journal of Nutrition, vol. 55, no. 2, Nov. 2016, pp. 55–69. Springer Link, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-016-1229-6