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 a story.

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

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 waitlist for a free Foundations Mindful Eating Call.  In the call we have time to discuss your biggest barrier to changing your eating habits and I will outline a personalised plan for you.

Only if you love the plan will I suggest one of our programs.


2 thoughts on “Eat mindfully for Hunger and Appetite

  1. I can see where I come unstuck but give in to temptation when stressed. Comfort eating at the end of day.

    1. Thanks for sharing Jill. I am glad that you have uncovered your barrier, as this is a first step. In our upcoming webinar I will be sharing what’s required to stop habits like yours for good without a restrictive diet. Hope to see you on the webinar x

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