Hunger vs Appetite: What’s The Difference?
Have you ever noticed that you may feel hungry, but when you see the food choices (think your high school’s cafeteria food), your appetite disappears? Depending on food preferences, our appetites can be affected by many different factors such as emotional health, hormone levels and the specific food available.
Our appetite is in control our cravings for food. It is influenced by our sensory reaction to food.
What is Appetite?
Hunger and appetite are two very different mechanisms. Appetite is associated with one’s behavior. It is a conditioned response to food and how it makes us feel when we eat it. Think of your appetite as the desire to eat. How many times have you been totally full after eating, but when you walk passed a bakery and smell your favorite freshly baked bread, you felt compelled to turn around to get some? This is because we are conditioned to want the things we like. If bread was not one of your preferred foods, then the aroma would have no impact and you would simply continue walking.
Being satiated can also be affected by our mood, emotional health, as well as the way we connect to food through our emotional state. Our food choices also affect our level of fullness. For example, food that is made of low-quality fat products will leave a person feeling satisfied, but in general, contains very little nutritional value. In the end, the person has only consumed something that was very high in fat and calories.
When we think of “junk food”, we think of fried food, cakes, cookies, ice cream and chips. It is almost as if we are programmed to automatically think negatively about a healthier food option because subconsciously we are thinking it will not satisfy our craving.
If this same person who was craving the “junk food” consumed an avocado, the health benefits would have been far greater. Although avocados are high in fat, it’s a good fat and they are rich in essential vitamins and minerals. When eating for our appetites, we do not give our brains the time it needs to register that we are full. We are eating simply for the enjoyment.
What is Hunger?
On the other hand, hunger is biological need to eat. We feel hunger when our bodies send signals to us that it is running low on resources and needs refueling.
To define hunger, one can say that when you hear that growling in the pit of stomach, it’s time to feed it the beast. When your body is running low on reserves, it sends messages to our brains. That is where the grumbling and rumbling comes from. This also happens when it has been hours and your insulin level drops. Hunger is not a conditioned response to food as is your appetite.
Keep in mind though that if you are used to eating at certain times and then you are on a diet, your body will still send messages at those times because it was in the habit of you eating then. This is more of a conditioned response or a habit.