Understanding Your Appetite
Have you ever felt a nagging, hungry feeling while dieting?
People who are engaged in weight loss efforts often complain of nagging hunger even after the “big meals” of the day such as lunch and dinner. I’ve felt this “hunger” myself when I started dropping the pounds some years ago.
In the beginning, I thought that I was cutting out too many calories because my stomach felt like a growling, empty pit. I sought the advice of my physician because I was worried that I might get stressed or fatigued by the constant feeling of wanting to eat.
I thought I was losing my battle against the bulge.
After examining the food journal I had written (you should start writing on one too), my physician smiled at me and said, “I think it’s your appetite that’s causing problems.”
I only had vague knowledge of what appetite really was so my doctor further explained: “appetite is your mental desire to eat and it has an impact on how satisfied you are with food.”
Then it hit me: the nagging hunger I felt was actually psychological! I went home that night feeling more empowered. I figured that if it was my appetite that was causing me to overeat on some days, I would be able to control it so that it won’t cause problems anymore.
Why does appetite exist?
Appetite is the brain’s way of appreciating food and it also sets your satisfaction level when you eat. Our appetite is a type of psychological reaction to the presence of food or to the idea of eating or drinking something.
Your appetite is determined by genetics and conditioning. The latter factor is more important because it sets the stage every time you eat. Our appetites are so powerful that they can cause stomach muscles to contract. Appetite may be psychological in origin, but it definitely has a physical impact.
Your most dominant desires to eat are brought about by previous experiences, like how your mom prepared mouthwatering dishes when you were little.
A person’s appetite can change over time if a sufficient amount of conditioning has taken place. So the next time you feel like you “have to eat candy,” that’s your probably just your appetite talking, sending you to the store so you can finally satisfy your sweet tooth.
What’s the difference between hunger and appetite?
Since your appetite is rooted in mental desire, it is considered separate from real, physical hunger. You can easily differentiate hunger from appetite by comparing how your body communicates with you.
When you experience physical signs like a rumbling belly or a little weakness in your muscles, you are probably hungry. The solution: start eating! If your body is sending you a signal that it needs fuel, don’t ignore it.
Appetite on the other hand, will communicate a different set of signals. You ‘feel’ like you need to eat more, even if your stomach is already full. Your mind keeps telling you that your portions were too small.
You want to reach into the fridge and grab something, anything, because you are still hungry. You begin craving for your favorite comfort foods. The list of appetite-related thoughts and sensations go on and on.
Can we beat our appetite?
We often feel our appetite rearing its ugly head when our blood glucose levels go down.
This happens every 4 hours from the moment you wake up. Assuming that you eat breakfast in the morning, you will feel hunger and your appetite signaling at you roughly every 4 hours.
In countries like the United Kingdom, people normally eat 4 times a day: breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. However, in countries like the United States, we have the “three squares” concept of eating: breakfast, lunch and dinner.
There is a huge gap between lunch time and dinner time. Because of lower glucose levels a few hours after lunch time, people start feeling ravenous and they end up buying and eating unhealthy snack items just to beat “the munchies” before dinner.
How many meals should you have in a day?
An excellent solution to the problem mentioned above is to eat before your appetite forces you to overeat or consume junk food. The ideal number of meals per day to conquer a wild appetite is 5 to 6 small meals.
This might sound like a tall order, but it’s actually easy when you have light, low-calories snacks available like granola bars or oatmeal cookies.
Salads are also great appetite busters as they have a lot flavor and texture and these elements in food really tone down a person’s appetite after a few minutes of eating.