Are you actually hungry, is it a craving, or are you eating out of habit?

Appetite, hunger, or habit? They sound similar—maybe even interchangeable…but are they, really? According to the Oxford Dictionary, there are some small and meaningful differences between hunger and appetite. Hunger is defined as a feeling of discomfort and weakness caused by a lack of food, while appetite is merely a desire to satisfy. So what does that mean for you and your diet? It means no more justifications, and no more claiming hunger when you’re really only satisfying a craving.

Eating healthy is hard—trust me, I know. But why is that? In my opinion, it’s because we’ve lost the ability to listen to our bodies. Hunger, appetite, and habits have merged into a void that determines our caloric intake, no matter what our health goals are.

Here are some familiar examples of overeating when it’s not necessary:

  • Eat three meals a day. Who cares if you’re hungry or not? It’s dinnertime!
  • Clean your plate. It’s rude not to finish—not to mention wasteful.
  • Birthdays are for cake. Everyone indulges on birthdays and holidays!
  • Movies are for popcorn. It’s not the same without it.

Each of our social gatherings include some form of indulgence: date night, drinks with the girls, weddings, baby showers, family reunions. They all include unnecessary calories. Our world is so food-focused, we don’t stop to ask ourselves why we’re eating.

Unless you have a medical condition, your weight is the outcome of a net calorie balance. If you’re putting in more calories than your body can use, you’ll have a positive calorie balance, which leads to weight gain. The trick to weight loss isn’t a fancy diet or a magic pill—it’s simply putting in less calories than you burn every day.

That’s why it’s essential to ask yourself vital questions, like, “Am I hungry, or am I just having a craving? Am I eating because the social norm implies that I should?” Just because a birthday candle was blown out doesn’t mean you have to eat a slice of cake. I can’t tell you how many slices of cake I’ve eaten in my lifetime…and I don’t even like cake!

I do request a cheesecake each year for my birthday. Nutritionally, it’s not much better than a slice of cake. The difference is that I LOVE cheesecake. I may be indulging, but I’m not mindlessly eating it because it’s in front of me. I enjoy every second of it. I know I’ve consumed it based on my cravings, and, in moderation, that’s okay. The next meal, I always eat based on my hunger.
My main objective in this article is not to help you justify eating cheesecake all the time because you love it, nor is it about starving yourself skinny. I’m merely trying to help you raise your awareness a little about why you eat. Listen to your body. Paying attention to your appetite, hunger, and habits can help you make better decisions every single day.

iFit Trainer
Emily Wiley