The Appetite System
Hunger and Fullness signals exist to guide our eating
Our digestive system works closely with our brain to regulate our appetite. When we eat a meal this gives us enough energy for a few hours. Once the meal is used up, signals from our gut and other organs tell our brain that it is time to eat again. These signals are experienced by us as hunger. If we eat, the hunger signals are switched off.
If we don’t eat at this point, two things happen.
- The first is that the body switches over to using up its store of energy (fat) and a little bit of fat is burned to produce energy. The body registers this as having received more energy and so the hunger signals are switched off. So, if you don’t eat as soon as you feel hungry, the hunger signals will soon pass. This means that tolerating hunger doesn’t mean constant effort.
- The second is that hunger signals return after perhaps half an hour and gradually get more frequent and stronger, though if we ignore them they will again subside for a period of time.
During a meal signals are sent from the gut to the brain that food has arrived. The more we eat, the stronger the signals. We experience these signals as fullness.
If you are overweight you may have been ignoring these hunger and fullness signals, possibly for many years. Appetite Retraining shows you how to tune in to this system for a reliable internal guide to what, when and how much to eat. Eating just as much as your body needs means your weight can fall naturally. This liberates you from diet sheets, meal plans and calorie counters!
Eating and Pleasure
When we get hungry, the system in the body which tells us what our body needs to eat is activated. If we eat the food our body needs, we experience pleasure and the desire for that food is satisfied, probably after a few mouthfuls of that food. “Sensory specific satiety” means that although we may have had enough of this taste, we may still have a desire for another type of food. After a few mouthfuls of that second food, sensory-specific satiety will again register and the desire for this second food will reduce.
As we get hungry, our taste buds become increasingly sensitive. To increase your enjoyment of food, one of the best things you can do is to wait until you feel definitely hungry. The same food eaten when hungry will be much more tasty than the same food when you’re not hungry.
Hunger and Anxiety
Our body’s Anxiety System evolved to warn us of danger in the environment. For our ancestors, lack of food signalled danger of starvation. Although we now live in conditions of over-supply of food, our basic biology remains driven by anxiety reduction. Feeling hungry can make us feel anxious even though we have plenty of food available. Those of us who become unduly anxious about feeling hungry need to learn that mild hunger is not to be feared and indeed, is to be embraced as a valuable tool in losing weight.