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Your appetite – body and mind

Published: 23/01/2024 | Author: Isabella Lee, Global Senior Nutritional Scientist

We need food to survive, that is a basic fact, but your appetite does not depend solely on your body’s energy requirements. Did you know that the word appetite comes from the Latin word "appetitus” that means “desire for”? You can have a desire for food without feeling hungry, and you can be hungry without having a desire to eat. This highlights the complexity of the human appetite. It is so much more than just the physio-biological need; it also encompasses the psycho-social aspects of eating (Hopkins and Blundell, 2016). We eat for the health of both body and mind.

WHY IT’S EASIER TO GAIN WEIGHT THAN LOSE IT!

Our biological drive is to consume food and drink so that we get all the nutrients our bodies need for growth and repair. Research has shown that the appetite signals work differently for hunger and fullness, which is one of the reasons why it is much easier to gain body weight, than to lose it (Smethers and Rolls, 2018). Hunger signals that it is time eat to top up our energy reserves and nutrient requirements, whereas fullness signals that it is time to stop eating, so as to not overwhelm the digestive system – and not necessarily because energy reserves are full. In theory, consuming high-calorie foods and/or having full energy reserves should result in reduced appetite, but this is usually not the case.

THE BODY IS BAD AT REGISTERING CALORIES

Our bodies are really bad at registering calories coming from energy-dense and highly palatable foods, such as baked goods, confectionary and sugary drinks. It is like our fullness cues are suppressed or completely gone as hunger returns after a short period of time. This is especially evident when consuming liquid calories from sugary drinks. We can also feel hunger from just thinking about food. Interestingly, thought of food stimulates the release of the hunger hormone ghrelin, and we start salivating to prepare the digestive system. Talk about having a mind–body connection! Unfortunately, we do not have the same ability to feel fullness by mere thoughts.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT FOODS CAN HELP REGULATE APPETITE

So, what can you do to better regulate your appetite? Well, the foundation for a healthy life, and appetite, is to consume a nutritious diet and balanced meals that contain high-quality proteins from animal or plant sources, dietary fibre-rich carbohydrates, healthy fats and filling vegetables. Including more protein and dietary fibre in your meals will help to keep you full, but also help to maintain muscle tissue and digestive health.
In addition, opt for nutritious foods with low energy density when you compose your meals – these are foods that have a large volume relative to their calorie content, such as oatmeal porridge, vegetables and fruits. High volume foods require more chewing and take a while to digest, which will help you feel more full from your meal. This can be especially beneficial when choosing a snack. And also make sure to fill up on water regularly, as thirst can very easily be mistaken for hunger.

ADOPT MINDFUL EATING AND REGULAR MEALTIMES

When it comes to the psycho-social aspect of eating, which includes our emotions, habits and cultures, this also affects why, when and where we eat. By practicing mindful eating, which involves being present in the moment, taking time and paying close attention to your food while eating, you can have an easier time regulating your appetite (Köse, 2020). Also, sticking to a more consistent meal routine will make you more aware of your hunger cues and help you decide if it is because of emotional or social reasons you want to eat. At the end of the day, when it comes to the health of your body and mind, there are more factors than just nutrition that impact your unique lifestyle. Equally important is moving your body regularly, getting sufficient sleep, destressing frequently and having meaningful connections with others.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Isabella Lee, PhL. is a Nutritionist and a member of Oriflame’s Nutrition Council.

REFERENCES:

Hopkins M, Blundell JE. Energy balance, body composition, sedentariness and appetite regulation: pathways to obesity. Clin Sci (Lond). 2016 Sep;130(18):1615‐28. doi: 10.1042/CS20160006.
Köse G. Can Mindful Eating Help Us When We Struggle With Eating? Mindful Eating Replaces Diets. Turk J Sport Exe. April 2020;22(1):72-7. doi: 10.15314/tsed.679392.
Smethers AD, Rolls BJ. Dietary Management of Obesity: Cornerstones of Healthy Eating Patterns. Med Clin North Am. 2018 Jan;102(1):107-24. doi: 10.1016/j.mcna.2017.08.009.

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