Hunger is a physiological requirement …a legitimate need for the energy and nutrients that foods provide. Hunger is instinctive and uncontrollable.
Appetite, on the other hand, is a psychological desire to eat. Unlike hunger, appetite is controllable, and often operates completely independent of any refueling requirements. Common triggers include stress, boredom, insufficient sleep, sensory cues (advertising depicting mouthwatering food or smelling something delicious), and social pressures such as moms trying to fatten up their kids and the pressure to go out and eat & drink with friends.
Not sure if it’s hunger or appetite driving you to eat like Pac Man? Look for these signs: grumbling stomach, irritability, headache, and lightheadedness, which can indicate low blood sugar. If you are not exhibiting any of these, chances are good that you’re not really hungry; something just stimulated your appetite.
Ok, now that you know difference controlling your appetite will be easy right? Hardly.
“Don’t underestimate the Force” – Darth Vader
One need not be an epidemiologist specialized in obesity to know that the forces that lead us to the cupboard, fridge, or through the late-night drive thru are strong. Most heavy people are aware that they are overeating; they just don’t have the ability or willingness to stop. Since you’re reading The Log, willingness probably isn’t the problem. So let’s look at a few strategies to help improve your ability:
- Fail to plan, plan to fail. Sure, it’s cliché, but expressions don’t get overused without good reason. Take the time to estimate how much energy you need, what your macronutrient breakout should look like, and plan & prepare your meals for the week. If you have everything calc’d out, you’re less likely to get hungry.
- Don’t let yourself get hungry. The line between hunger and appetite gets blurrier when you skip meals, try to cut calories too severely or quickly, and when you eat energy-dense foods with low water volume. While satiety won’t overcome all of the factors that drive us to eat, it’s an important place to start.
- Think before you eat. If you’ve done the proper planning, you should know what, when, and how much you are eating. Are you really hungry, or are other factors leading you to eat? Did you burn more calories than usual today or skip your bedtime protein shake the night before? Consciously consider the motivation of unplanned portions.
- Ride the brakes a little. There’s a delay in the relay of information between your gut and your brain. The faster you eat, the more likely you are to overindulge. More on this here.
- Postpone Cravings. Got a hankerin’ for a hunk of cheesecake? Hold off for 30 minutes. Go for a walk, get in a quick workout, read …do something to distract yourself for a little while. Still craving that cheesecake? Go ahead and have a small piece, but chances are good that the craving will fade away if you wait.