Hunger and Appetite – Same Difference?
Winter weather can make us pack on more than just a few extra layers of clothing. We may find ourselves packing on a few extra pounds. Researchers find that our appetites are actually harder to control this time of year. What exactly is an appetite?

If you ever shopped or planned an event on a budget, then you must appreciate the importance of seperating needs from wants. The same process should happen with our diet–seperating hunger from appetite. Some mistakenly believe these are the same thing. Some believe the difference is very subtle. Training ourselves to identify a clear distinction can help improve our diet to ensure we eat all the nutrients we need while avoiding unnecessary weight gain or calorie intake.

When your body is hungry and needs food, it will send “uncomfortable” signals. These are internal signals that involve body hormones. Ghrelin, for example, is a hormone produced by the stomach that will help increase your desire to eat. Your stomach will growl, you may lose focus, or feel irritable. You need to listen to your hunger signals.

Appetite is a desire or craving for food in the absence of hunger. These are the “external” signals you need to control. Appetite is influenced by various factors. It may be affected by medication, the sight or smell of food, the temperature of your environment, or even emotions. You may not realize it but when you are eating to satisfy your appetite, your body is only concerned with the salivating, chewing, and tasting of food. When it comes to hunger, however, your body is focused on actually digesting and absorbing that food to satisfy your nutrient needs.

The Million Dollar Question
Before you take your first bite, take a few seconds to ask yourself why you are about to eat what you are eating? Are you really hungry? Or are you bored and just trying to pass some time? Did you spot something tasty at the holiday party you are attending or in an advertisement? Why? Why are you eating? Make sure the calories you are about to consume are a need, and not always a want. If necessary, drink a small glass of water and wait 20 minutes to see if you still have the desire to eat. Hunger should last. Appetite can fade away.

Eat More Fiber and Complex Carbohydrates
Unlike refined carbohydrates, complex ones help you stay fuller longer, they keep your blood sugar stable. This will help you control food cravings. An EnergyFirst protein shake can offer the proper nutrition you need to keep your energy levels stable, and prevent the crash that can often spike your appetite. Fiber can help you feel full or satiated.

Take it Slow
It takes the body about 20 minutes to realize it is not hungry anymore (satiated or full) and to signal this to your brain. Unfortunately, in 20 minutes a person can also consume a load of calories that were never needed. That is why it is important to eat slowly. This gives us a chance to catch the “full” signal before we pass our budget, or limit of calories that we really need. Stay engaged in your discussions at the family table. Try to focus on the taste and texture of what you are eating.

Eat a Snack
A healthy, balanced meal should be able to keep you satisfied and your blood sugar stable for 4 hours. However, if we do not have a snack, our hunger signals may be more intense by the time our 4 hours are up. A small healthy snack can help you make it through this period with a normal sense of hunger by the time you eat your next meal. This will help prevent overeating. An EnergyFirst protein shake makes a great snack between meals.

Out of Site, Out of Mind
Instead of having tons of tempting snack foods lying around in visible areas, keep them stored away. This is especially important if you find that your personal appetite is often stimulated by the appearance of food.

One scientific study found that exercise can help reduce the desire to eat. Although all research subjects were exposed to tempting food images, one group practiced a morning workout routine while the other did not. The group that engaged in physical activity in the morning was more successful in controlling their appetite, which was measured by their brain’s response to seeing the food images.

Eat Healthy
For some, it may be hard to imagine that a healthy diet can actually suppress appetite. How can avoiding all those tempting, sugary, fatty, starchy foods actually lower your appetite? It turns out the feeling of fullness that you get after completely satisfying your hunger comes not only from the volume of food you eat, but also the amount of nutrients you eat. The stomach can sense the nutrient content of your food. Then, appetite-suppressing hormones, like leptin, are released to signal your body that it is no longer hungry. The more nutrient-rich your meals are, the more satisfying they will be.

Winter comfort food may keep us warm and cozy, but make sure you’re eating the right food for the right reasons with these practical tips.