Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the fight between what our body needs and what it thinks it needs. In this corner, we have a sensation or weakness caused by the need for food, widely known as “hunger.” And, in this corner, stands the desire for food or drink, a craving if you will, the returning champion, “appetite.” We anticipate a clean scuffle but as we all know very well, appetite can pull out some pretty dirty tricks.
The line is thin, pale and fading between what we eat, how much we consume, when we dine and under what circumstances we pick up a fork. The factors that contribute to our diets are numerous and should be taken seriously because the jump from a size six to a size ten is not that hard to land.
So, what is the difference between appetite and hunger? One word: need. You’ve been awake since 5:00 a.m. and you haven’t paused long enough to sigh, let alone eat something. Before you know it, the clock strikes noon and your stomach is growling incessantly. You compensate for not having eaten all day by ordering a burger and an extra-large side of fries for lunch. But it doesn’t stop there.
Shortly after feasting on your grilled cow and fried potatoes smothered in salt and ketchup, you return to your desk. Work resumes and 30 minutes after your lunch break, you reach into your desk and pull out the salted peanuts for no apparent reason. You aren’t really hungry but they are just sitting in your drawer, so you pop open the lid. Without realizing it, you’ve eaten over half the can. The cycle continues and when you clock out ready to head home for the night, you’ve eaten the entire can of peanuts, two bags of chips and a soda or two on top of your “healthy” lunch.
What’s the moral of the story? You started out eating because your body needed fuel, but because you starved yourself for so long your hunger turned into appetite without you even realizing it. The extra-large order of fries, the peanuts and the chips were unnecessary but required because your body is telling your brain, “I haven’t been fed since last night, please give me more.”
What should you have done? Shortly after waking, feed yourself. Some fruit, some carbohydrates, a little bit of protein and your good to go for a couple of hours. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you have to wait until noon to eat again either. A small snack between larger meals is important not only to keep your metabolism running but also to keep your body on more than half a tank of fuel.
Lunch rolls around and coworkers want to grab something fast and fried. So what do you do? You don’t give in, that’s what. Opt for a healthier meal and at the end of the day you won’t feel like your body is a war zone. Fat, sugar and salt are extremely addictive. One taste of processed sugar and you’re on the slippery slope of jellied donuts and candy bars for the rest of the day. One handful of pretzels and the next thing you know, you’ve eaten an entire bag of popcorn and two snack sized bags of Fritos. Then there are the fats. Not only are they tricky because the feel of most fatty products is undeniably appealing but they typically go hand in hand with a lot of sugar or salt.
One thing leads to another and then another and before you realize what’s going on you’ve developed an unhealthy relationship. Your friends tell you to “break up” but no matter what you think you can make it work, although your waistband and overall well-being are suffering in the meantime.
It is not easy to combat appetite. Occasionally, I find myself going after the salty or sweet snack. The point is not to determine when you’re really hungry or if you’re just plain “feening,” the point is to be able to put down the bag of chips or even the bowl of carrots and stop before you binge. Control is crucial. In the struggle between appetite and hunger, being able to say, “I will not consume three quarters of this cake,” putting down the fork and walking away is a feat all in itself. And there we have it ladies and gents, the battle is long and arduous, it is ever onward going and ever present, but not impossible to come out victorious.