Are You Losing Weight: Assessing Your Lifestyle – Hunger or Appetite?


Are you dieting? The big question that arises comes when assessing your lifestyle – hunger or appetite? What is the difference between the two? Most of us could care less if any difference exists between hunger and appetite when we reach for our favorite mint chocolate chip ice cream; however, if you learn to recognize the difference you can tune into your body and eat when your body really needs the calories. This is an excellent way to stop overeating.

Learning to differentiate between real hunger and appetite can help you avoid overeating. This is one of the best ways to reach your goal weight and maintain your healthy weight. When you know the difference, you will eat when you are truly hungry, and discover a whole new world of activities and ideas to take the place of your previous ‘overeating’.

You are not alone on this journey. More than two-thirds of American adults are considered to be overweight or obese – 64.1 percent of women and 72.3 percent of men[1]. Let’s find out how you can make a difference in weight loss strategy today.

I Want to Eat Vs I Need to Eat

When you are justly hungry your body needs to eat. People starve from hunger, not from appetite. In the beginning, when you are hungry you will feel an emptiness or hear your stomach rumble. Long periods of time without food can lead to more sever hunger that includes physical symptoms such as headaches, shakiness, and weakness. Interestingly, hormones and low blood sugar trigger hunger in some people.

When we talk about desire to eat we are talking about your appetite. This involves all of those words that dieters hate – cravings, emotional eating, habits, holidays, family and social events, smells, and even thoughts of foods you enjoy. Any of these can stimulate your appetite. As opposed to hunger, when your appetite is stimulated you are more likely to overeat and gain weight.

Hunger Cues

Your body is a wonderful machine. It does not let you down when it comes to the confusing problem defining appetite or hunger, especially when you are ‘in the trenches’ – really craving food you do not need or running low on foods you need for sustenance.

Your body gives you specialized cues to let you know if you are experiencing real hunger.

  • Thirsty
  • Overly tired, exhausted
  • Boredom
  • Lengthy time since last eating

In addition, ask yourself, “How will I feel if I wait ten or fifteen minutes before I get a snack?”

Finally, after carefully considering these options rate your hunger on a scale from one to five, with five being the most hungry. If you answer the questions positively and rate yourself high on the scale it is time for you to eat.

Remember, choose snacks and meals wisely. It is easy to choose high calorie, high fat foods when we are hungry. Instead, choose whole grains found in pastas or rice, breads, cereals, energy bars, and crackers.

Not Hungry? Try to Reduce Your Intake of Food

Now that you know the difference between hunger and appetite you can make a conscious decision to eat only when you are hungry. This is one of the most successful weight management techniques you will have in your dieting tool kit.

Let’s look at a few tips to make it easier to say no to tempting treats when you are not hungry, only suffering from your appetite.

  • Eat small meals throughout the day. If you try to starve, you will eat to your appetite, not a good choice. Also, when you starve yourself you are more likely to eat too much when you do eat.
  • Do not be tempted by food descriptions such as ‘Belgium Black Forest Double Chocolate Cake’.[2]
  • Eat the right foods. Foods that are filling last longer and will keep you from getting hungry. There are a few rules to keep in mind: Whole foods – oranges vs. orange juice, fiber, (veggies, fruits, whole grains), and proteins are all filling foods.
  • Make a list of things you can do when your appetite attacks. Keep this list in your kitchen or with you at all times. When you are hungry between meals you can pull an activity from the list and ‘bye, bye hunger’.
  • Eat small portions of all types of foods. This will keep you from becoming bored with one or two kinds of food.
  • Your body is an excellent monitor. It will tell you when it is sated if you listen. Do not immediately go back for seconds, wait ten to fifteen minutes and see how you feel.
  • Be careful of prescription medicines that promote weight gain[3]. Discuss medicines with your doctor.

Get Out and Get Active

When it comes to assessing your lifestyle – hunger or appetite – you have now been given the information you need to make it through the holidays, during periods of emotional eating, when you are with friends and social events and how to overcome a habit.

One of the most important tips to make it easier to stay out of the appetite trap – no matter what the trap may be – is to get out and get active. America is becoming a country of overweight adults and children. If you recognize your appetite’s typical triggers and get exercise you will not be one of the 69 percent of Americans who fails to be adequately physically active.

Assessing your lifestyle – hunger or appetite – gives you information to make the right changes that promote good health. You will discover your triggers and how to avoid them. Knowing the difference gives you the key to successful dieting.


[1]  Overweight and Obesity Statistics. (2011, July). Retrieved from Weight Control Information Network: win.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/index.htm#what

[2]  Mindless Eating that Adds Pounds. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Institute of Health: newsinhealth.nih.gov/2005/July2005/docs/01features_01.htm#feature01

 [3]  National Public Radio. (2006, July 10). Retrieved from 10 More Possible Triggers to Obesity: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5546074


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