Thanks to the fact that you require food for existing, your body does not waste any time in letting you know that it is ready for breakfast, lunch, dinner and also snacks. Let me shed some light on the signals that your body uses to get you to the dining table, through the entrance of your favourite pizza parlour or to the sandwichwala and chaiwala outside your office building.
Difference Between Hunger and Appetite
We eat for two main reasons – The first reason is hunger and the second reason is appetite. Hunger and appetite are not the same things. In fact both are two entirely different processes. Hunger is the need for food and it’s a physical reaction that creates chemical changes within your body and is related to a naturally low level of glucose several hours after you finish a meal. Hunger is a protective mechanism and is instinctive by nature. Hunger ensures that you receive the fuel that helps you to function in a reasonable manner.
Appetite on the other hand is a desire that wells up within you and makes you crave for food. Appetite is a sensory and psychological reaction that stimulates a physiological response within you that is involuntary. You see something that looks good or you smell something good you start to salivate and your stomach starts to contract.
The real difference between Hunger and Appetite is that when you are hungry, you eat one burger. After that, your appetite may urge you to eat one more burger because they look good and smell great. Appetite is the reason why we say, “Your eyes are bigger than your tummy!” When restaurants fill up the air with the smell of food cooking or when you see an advertisement showing melted cheese or gooey chocolate, one realises that the marketing men and women who advertise these products really know their customers!
The Cycle of Hunger & Fullness
The body tries to create cycles of activity that mirrors a 24-hour cycle. Just like sleep, you feel hungry also at regular intervals. The most clear signals that you get from your body when it wants food is when your stomach starts to growl! An empty tummy knows no manners! If you don’t fill it up immediately it is going to issue a loud and sometimes embarrassing shout-out for food! The rumbling signals from your stomach are the hunger pangs. Hunger pangs are muscular contractions. When your stomach is full, these contractions are responsible for moving food down the length of the intestinal tract. But when you have an empty stomach, thee contractions simply squeeze out air and hence the noise.
Beating the 4 Hour Hungries
For each and every human being on Earth, the cycle of hunger creates a feeding schedule that makes you eat 4 meals every day – breakfast, lunch, a mid-day snack and dinner. A lot of people stick to a 3-meal a day culture which keeps large gaps between meals because of which when glucose levels drop after 5 pm a lot of people undergo mood swings, get irritable and make mistakes at work. Either this or they go grab the nearest meal from the cafeteria or a roadside stall which is usually high fat and full of calories.
More Frequent Meals
The 5 small meals a day suggestion that is so common today was first suggested by David Jenkens PhD, and Tom Wolever, MD, PhD, of the University of Toronto about twenty years back. They had set up a study that was designed to test the idea that if you spread out the digestion process by eating several small meals a day rather than 3 big meals. They realised that by doing so, one could spread out the secretion of insulin and help keep the blood glucose levels at an even level throughout the day.
It is a study that has revolutionised the world of weight loss through Dieting. Diets that are designed to help a person lose weight now emphasize eating several small meals daily rather than just 3 big ones. To be fair though this is not an approach that works for everyone. For some people who are in jobs or situations where they cannot eat several small meals daily or if eating too many meals is a distraction then I advise three big meals a day.
How to Maintain a Healthy Appetite
The best way to deal with hunger and appetite is to recognize and respect your body’s natural signals. I always tell my clients to listen to their bodies and know their own selves intimately. When you are hungry just go ahead and eat! But be mindful and eat in reasonable quantities. You must also remember that no one is perfect. If you tend to overeat one day it’s not the end of the world! Reduce your calorific intake over the next few meals proportionately and you will be just fine! It’s all about give and take. Give a little and take a little.
Responding to your Environment When Eating
Your physical environment also makes a huge difference to your appetite and hunger which in turn causes you to sometimes eat more and sometimes eat less. When it’s cold, you are more tempted to eat stews, roasts, thick soups etc. while one is more tempted to eat salads, chilled fruit and sandwiches on hot summer days. It is always a good idea to ensure that the environment that you are in supports your weight loss regime. If you have just started a weight loss routine stay in town for a few months until you meet your fitness goals. Do not dash off to Europe for a vacation in between. Combine the lure of an exotic holiday plus a colder climate and you are bound to sway from your diet and exercise regime with the result that you will be back to square one or may even be worse off from where you started!
- Exercising gives you a big appetite right? Well not exactly. If you exercise regularly you are actually more likely to have a normal appetite and moreover you will not be hungry immediately post a workout because:
- Exercise pulls up stored energy i.e. glucose and fat – out of body tissues, so that your glucose levels are steady and you do not feel very hungry.
- Exercise will slow the passage of food through your digestive tract. Your stomach will tend to empty at a slower rate and you will not feel full for a longer period of time.
- Exercising vigorously also benefits you tremendously and reduces your anxiety levels. And that can be one less incentive to reach out for a snack.
Medicines that Change Your Appetite
Some drugs that you may take can affect your appetite causing you to eat more or eat lesser than usual. These side effects are not often mentioned by doctors when they hand out their prescriptions. Some examples of appetite uppers are certain antidepressants, antihistamines (allergy pills), diuretics (drugs that make you urinate more frequently), steroids (drugs that fight inflammation), and tranquilizers (calming drugs). Medicines that may reduce your appetite include some antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, anti-seizure drugs, blood pressure medications, and cholesterol-lowering drugs.