How To Distinguish Appetite From Hunger
When I see people face-to-face in my weight loss clinic, one question I ask them is “When is your hungry time?” Invariably, the answer is “I’m never hungry.”
This may sound strange coming from someone who is obviously overweight, but I know exactly what they mean. Many of us long ago stopped “listening” to our body. Instead we eat ‘by the clock’, or because we see or smell something nice, or because someone else is eating, or because the kids have come home from school, or because a friend visits, or because of a million different reasons.
Hunger Describes A Physical Need
Hunger refers to a physical discomfort caused by the lack of food. One common sign is a rumbling stomach. This rumbling can be accompanied by a feeling of lightheadedness and weakness. Hunger only occurs after an extended period of time since eating.
Appetite is Habit
Appetite is more like a desire or craving for food. It may be prompted by the sight or smell of food. Passing a bakery and getting the smell of freshly baked bread, or seeing the dessert-trolley in a restaurant, are typical examples. In either case, our stomach may be full because we’ve just eaten, but the smell and sight of the bread and desserts stimulate our appetite.
Also, many of use eat in response to moods of sadness, anger, anxiety, boredom or even happiness. This type of emotional stimulus it can be a very powerful cue to eat, and very often, to overeat.
Discovering Your Hunger/Appetite
An effective way of finding out if you are eating because you are hungry or out of habit, is to keep a journal for a week and write down
(1) what you eat, and
(2) The circumstances of your eating
– meaning, what caused you to eat, how you felt when you ate.
Do This Experiment
Hold up your hand and make a fist. Now look at it.
Did you know that your stomach is no bigger than your fist?
For the next 24 hours, I want you to retain this image – because the truth is we don’t actually need to eat anything like the amount of food we think we do!
In fact, it might be a good idea to do this little experiment every day!