Category Archives: Mindfulness

Eat mindfully for Hunger and Appetite

Welcome to week two of our Eat Mindfully for Health Series. During the three-part series we are exploring how mindful eating supports:

  • Improving your health,
  • Knowing the difference between hunger and other reasons for eating, and
  • Transforming eating habits related to stress, boredom, and emotions.

In this post, we are diving deep into hunger and appetite.

Hungry dog with his head on the table set with a knife and fork and glass of water.

Hunger and Appetite

Now if you are like me, you might often use hunger and appetite interchangeably, but this exchange of words is not grammatically correct.

Appetite is the desire to eat food, sometimes it is due to hunger!

We often use the word appetite when we are hungry,

But we can also say that we are hungry when we have appetite for non-hunger reasons.

So what do we really mean?

Other times we don’t really know if we have physical appetite or not, we just feel like eating.

Appetite is the desire to eat food, sometimes it is due to hunger!

Lady choosing chocolates from a chocolate box but not sure whether to keep eating.

Eating for You Drivers for Eating

Drivers for eating are your reasons or motivations for eating.

Often we do not know our drivers for eating, as they sit below the surface of eating habits.

Since habits occur on autopilot, we can remain unaware of what drives us to eat.

The practice of mindfulness encourages us to connect with and observe our reasons and motivations for eating.

When we take a look at the 9 Eating for You Drivers for Eating, each one of them can cause us to have an appetite.

But only physical hunger is directly linked to our physiological drive to eat for our survival.

So let’s take a look at the other 8 drivers for eating.

  • Health
  • Body Image
  • Spiritual and ethical beliefs
  • Food knowledge and skills
  • Pleasure
  • Preferences
  • Emotions and stress
  • Convenience

Women holding a bowl of tofu salad

Even with our best intentions for our health, unless we tune into our physical hunger, and other drivers, we can overeat.

Body image impacts on our relationship with food in a complex way. The choice of food for someone with a negative image of themselves is not focussed on their physical hunger, rather their perception of how their choices will impact on their appearance and their happiness.

Spiritual and ethical beliefs may or may not link in with physical hunger—it really depends on the held beliefs.

Regardless of food knowledge and skills, you still have to be connected with physical hunger to choose an appropriate portion size.

Woman cooking pasta sauce

Pleasure can be a strong driver of appetite! This is why it is ideal when it sits beside, not above, physical hunger—most of the time!

Preferences for different foods, flavours, or cuisines may or may not override physical hunger. But if we don’t tune into hunger we could eat more than we physically need.

Emotions and stress impact on how we eat. Research indicates that stress impacts on eating in about 80% of people. Half will lose their appetite—so they feel less hungry—but for the other half, their drive to eat increases and they overeat.

Eating for convenience either through the choice of food or timing of the eating occasion, may or may not be related to physical hunger. We have to be mindful though as we might eat because it is a mealtime, rather than because we are hungry.

Can you now see why hunger is the gatekeeper to eating mindfully?

The difference between hunger and appetite

The best way to explain how mindful eating helps to differentiate between hunger and appetite is to share some stories.

Mary started with Eating for You, with what she calls a lifetime of habits to change. Like many women, Mary had tried too many diets over the years.

“What I find is that the mindful eating questions pop into my head when I reach for more chocolate or cheesecake, and I stop eating.

So, I am really thinking about why I am eating and noticing that I can stop when I am not hungry. This is a big change for me.

In the past, when I was on a dieting program, there were so many ‘red light’ foods, restricted foods, that I couldn’t stop eating.

But now I am slowly finding that I can do it. This has been a real change in a lifetime habit and I’m very grateful.”

Woman choosing between apple and donut

Stefanie realised that when she came home from work she was eating when she wasn’t really hungry.

“By keeping my mindful eating journal I realised that I had eaten enough during the day, and I was eating at night with my husband when I wasn’t even hungry.

The journaling helped me to identify that to best match my hunger cycle I only need two meals a day. I now have my main meal at lunchtime and a light meal in the evening.

By making this change, I have more energy and feel healthier.”

Every afternoon Francoise finds herself snacking, which she calls her ‘afternoon binge time’. This is a habit that she has been trying to change for years as it has contributed to her gaining weight.

“Your course focuses on getting in touch with your hunger cycle.  This is good and not so much on losing weight, which some of us get fixated on and really is not helpful. 

 Once we have identified when we are truly hungry we are getting somewhere.

 I still need to work on the mid-afternoon binge time, thou, a few times now, I’ve taken myself out for a walk, when the weather was lovely.  So I guess I’m thinking of things to do.  It has been slow changing this habit, but it seems to be working now. 

 I do ask myself if I am really hungry or just wanting to eat something because I’m bored or whatever.  So this is very helpful.”

By knowing the difference between hunger and appetite, you can transform eating habits.

Our next post will share how mindful eating helps to overcome eating habits related to stress, boredom, and emotions.

If you would like a lifelong solution to your eating habits, then get started this spring

Join our 12-week online Mindful Eating Spring Program, which includes live group catch-ups with me.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

 

Eat Mindfully For Health And Enjoy Food

Three very good reasons to eat mindfully are, you want to feel and be healthier, and stop overeating as you are aware that you are eating for non-hunger reasons, due to stress boredom and emotions.

This post is the first in our series exploring the top three reasons Eating for You clients choose to eat mindfully.

Four ladies laughing and holding icecream cones

Continue reading Eat Mindfully For Health And Enjoy Food