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Hunger -v- Appetite

How often do you find yourself feeling hungry after smelling some nice food, or seeing an food advert on TV? The real question is - when this happens, do you eat something? 🙂

More often than not, this feeling is not hunger but in fact your appetite and the problem is that if you act on it and eat something, the chances you are might be adding unnecessary calories that you could otherwise have done without.


It is important to understand that appetite is selective and usually appears suddenly or urgently – typically caused by an emotional feeling. The desire for food in this case is specific: you desire a particular food, the piece of exquisite chocolate cake that you saw the day before in the bakery, or a slice of pizza from your favorite pizzeria, or some popcorn during a movie or lazy afternoon…

But when you finish eating there is no feeling of fullness, you are not full from what you have just eaten. Your brain sends signals for more and more… Soon after you have finished you begin to feel a sense of guilt for having eaten something that was not beneficial to your health because you have spoilt your diet or because you feel bloated or simply because you have realised that it was not necessary as you were not hungry…

Appetite consists of a cycle; a pleasure is anticipated, you search for the food and finally the food is found but it does not satisfy your physiological or energy requirements. Your appetite has caused an increase in unnecessary, non-nutritious calories that will produce and be stored as excess fat.

Appetite itself is a good thing. Having a healthy appetite means that you are likely to get the nutrients you need but it can also be easy for a person to let their appetite rule over their better judgment, leading to over-eating and obesity.


Unlike appetite, hunger responds to a physiological need of our body; it is an expression of our desire and urge to eat food. If you're hungry, you need food and your body is telling you so. It's sending you signals such as rumbling stomach growls or hunger pangs. Hunger cannot be controlled; it is instinctive and for some individuals, ignoring hunger can cause serious consequences.

When we experience hunger, we may feel dizzy, experience headaches, stomach pain, tiredness, weakness, sleepiness, fatigue, mood swings and, in extreme cases, fainting. It is a basic need of our body that has to be resolved.

Even the mere thought of food can elicit an emotional response - have you ever discussed with your partner about what to eat later that day and found your mouth watering at the prospect of something tasty? That’s appetite, not hunger! Appetite can be ignored and since appetite levels are greatly influenced by your brain, it is a learned behaviour which you can therefore control. Here are some ways to do this:

  1. Chew slowly and allow yourself to feel full. If you've ever had to unbutton the top button on your jeans after a meal, you know that we all eat beyond the point of fullness now and then. But just as your body sends signals when it is hungry, it also sends signals that it is full. To pay attention to our bodies' signs of satiety, we need to slow down and chew our food fully.

  2. Eat filling foods. Empty calories can add pounds to the frame but leave you hungry for more. Opt for nutrient-dense foods that fill you up while also providing your body with the nutrients it needs. High-fibre fruits, vegetables, and whole grains stop hunger pangs and can help remove those between-meal temptations.

  3. Trick your brain. In a research study, two groups of people were fed the exact same food - a chocolate-raspberry protein bar. After eating the bar, one group reported feeling hungry. The other, not so much. The difference? Beforehand, the first group was told that they would be eating "a new health bar", while the second group was told they would eat "a chocolate bar that is very tasty with a chocolate-raspberry core." Just thinking the food was "healthy" made the first group feel hungrier. And the more vivid, enticing description of the snack resulted in greater satiety.

  4. Eat before you get hungry. If you eat before you reach the point of starving, you’ll be more likely to make healthy eating decisions and less likely to overeat

  5. Dont avoid foods you love. If certain foods are “forbidden” you’re more likely to crave them.  Skip diets that require eliminating certain foods or food groups, and instead eat the less healthy foods in small portions.  If you have trouble limiting portions, don’t keep tempting foods in the house and share a treat with a friend when you eat out.

  6. Drink water. Try drinking 1-2 glasses of water next time you think you are hungry outside of normal meal times. Wait ten minutes and see if you still feel the same. Chances are, you may just have been thirsty!

As you can see, Hunger and appetite are two distinct concepts, although they are often discussed in the same way. Whilst hunger is the instinct of survival that drives us to feed when the body requires food, appetite is the feeling that we need to eat that is influenced by psychological aspects of the individual concerned.


This is a table of food ranked with how full they make you feel when compared to white bread. What do you think?

Until next time, your mission is to think before you eat when you feel those first pangs of hunger. Is is hunger, appetite or thirst maybe? How will you satisfy it......?

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