Are you feeling hungry because you are REALLY hungry or because you are stressed, bored, thinking about something nice to eat such as favorite food or you just plain old like eating and it’s almost an activity in your life that you look forward to! Nearly everyone eats for reasons other than just being truly hungry.

Your body can be hungry but you may not have an appetite due to being very stressed or worried for example. You can be completely well-nourished and still have an appetite and have a great desire for food!

Hunger is a sensation experienced when one feels the physiological need to eat food to refuel the body. When energy levels and stores are low, hormones from the digestive system and fat cells in conjunction with the brain regulate hunger.

Symptoms of true hunger – it is normal to be hungry 3-5 hrs after eating your last meal or snack. True hunger occurs very slowly and gradually, stomach rumbling and hunger pangs can occur. When you are really hungry and have gone for long periods without food, fatigue, light-headed, weakness and irritability can occur when blood sugar levels become too low.

Appetite differs from hunger; it is the desire to eat food without a physiological need. Appetite is a learned behavior and is controlled by the brain stem and it is influenced by sight, taste, and smell.

Sometimes this is triggered by hunger, but many times it’s due to cravings, habits, the availability of food, boredom, or other social and emotional factors. Even seeing and smelling food, other people eating around you, or passing your favorite bakery or restaurant can stimulate your appetite.

Eating can take your mind off your troubles and help relax you and give you a feeling of contentment. Emotional eating can often lead to the consumption of eating too many calories which then may lead to continuing weight problems.

Emotional eating is a learned behavior and often starts from a young age and it may have been used to soothe uncomfortable feelings such as sadness, fear, loneliness, stress, or boredom.

Other triggers might be memories of eating and happy times in places associated with food (what jumps to my mind is play centers at fast-food chains like Mcdonalds). The more we have eaten when we were not hungry, the more our natural hunger signals became confused and difficult to recognize.

Learning how to understand true hunger and your learned appetite is important for fat loss and overall well being.

ASK YOURSELF A FEW QUESTIONS WHEN YOU THINK YOU ARE HUNGRY


– Am I looking to feel a different emotion right now? Do I want to feel better about myself or about a situation? If this is the case then consider talking with a friend, going for a walk, writing in a journal or doing another activity that you find enjoyable and relaxing.​​

– Am I eating because others around me are eating? It’s OK not to eat. Don't be bullied into eating.


– Am I eating because it’s time to eat? Studies showed that for some people if they speed the clock up they still felt hungry because the clock said it was lunch when in fact it was much earlier.


– Am I bored? If you acknowledge boredom then find another activity that will entertain you!


– Am I avoiding something? Perhaps it’s time to get onto that task you have been putting off.


– Am I eating while distracted such as watching TV? Studies show that people eat more while watching TV, doing activities on the computer, then they do when they are eating at the table.


– Am I eating too quickly? If you eat too quickly you do not allow the satiety signals to register that you are full, this takes 20 minutes. Putting your utensils down between mouthfuls can be an excellent way to slow you down if you are a naturally fast eater. Enjoying your food and really tasting your food and savoring the flavor. Chew your food thoroughly rather than chewing a few times then swallowing and going for another mouthful before you’ve finished your last.


– Can I be distracted with something else? True hunger will not go away if you distract yourself.


– Not doing any regular exercise or walking? This has been shown to reduce appetite hormone regulation and the desire to overeat.


– Going for long periods without eating? Eating regular meals every 3-5 hours instead of letting yourself get too hungry and going for long periods without eating can then cause you to overeat when you eventually stop and take the time to eat. Eat small meals often.


Remember when we have finished our meal it is important to achieve a state of fullness, defined as a feeling of being satisfied. Feeling ill or uncomfortable in any way indicates you have eaten too much.


When you start to observe your false hunger signals and you choose to deal with the emotion in a different way then your brain will start disassociating the false signals from the need to eat and they will reduce.

The more you practice, the better and easier it will become! 

All of these good practices will result in fewer cravings to eat when you are not hungry.