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The Ongoing Battle: Your Appetite vs Hunger

Nathan Boyd -- Learn the mechanisms that controls how we eat. Then discover ways to help control them!

How many times have we been there? We've just completed feasting at the dinner table until we couldn't possibly eat even one more bite when, all of a sudden, dessert is brought out and we're suddenly somewhat hungry again.

There's probably not a single one of us that this scenario hasn't happened to, but what happened there at that dinner table? How could we possibly be so full one second and so hungry the next when all we did was took a look at that freshly-made banana cream pie? What exactly happened? Well, actually, your appetite happened and to better explain it, it helps to know the mechanisms that control our eating behavior (of which appetite is one).

We basically have two devices that control how we eat: Appetite, an external stimuli, and, Hunger, an internal one. When our body actually requires food it'll manifest this need with hunger. In this way, we are informed when the body does indeed need further nutrients for the system.

Appetite, on the other hand, is a learned response to food and can be triggered by sensory cues (such as the sight and smell of food) at times when eating isn't necessary. Appetite can also be enhanced by a variety of emotional stimuli such as anxiety, depression or excitement. This is why many of us will easily eat more when feeling depressed.

Appetite can be a very powerful influence on us and can also cause us to eat well past the point of satiety, which is the feeling of fullness in the body that tells us we're no longer experiencing hunger and that it's time to now stop eating. The trick for us though, so to speak, is in learning how to listen to our body and its hunger stimuli.

When you truly start experiencing hunger pangs in your stomach, then go ahead and eat. If you insist on following regular meal times, then just eat a snack for the time being (try to make it something healthy though). Don't feel guilty about snacking either; if your body is genuinely hungry, then it's hungry and you'll be less likely to overeat at your regular mealtime this way. Take your time eating, too. Savor the taste and smells of your meals and learn how to also take your time fully chewing your food. Then, when you first begin experiencing the feeling of satiety, learn how to stop eating at that point.

I find it interesting that experimental animals have proved themselves incredibly efficient in regulating their weight and listening to their hunger instincts, even when provided the luxury of eating as much food as they want, whenever they want. As humans, we are more than capable of listening to our bodies in the same way, as well.

So the next time you find that dessert tray calling your name, stop for a second and ask yourself if your body is truly hungry. If it is, then go ahead and enjoy that piece of dessert. If not, then push yourself away and save that dessert for another time.

"Please. No slice of pie this time!"

Nathan Boyd is the current Director of Pro Fitness of Texas and the author of the highly rated book, "There Are No Bad Chocolate-Chip Cookies!" Nathan encourages everyone to attain a successful Fitness Lifestyle. Visit his site at

© 2003 Nathan Boyd

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