Do not confuse hunger with the desire to eat

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

How do we know if when we start eating we are motivated by a real feeling of hunger or by a desire to eat? Is there a difference between the two? Can you feel like you’re hungry all the time? And is this “normal”?

Before reading on

I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.

The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.

It’s not easy to understand your body and listen to it when the fashion is for control and dietary restriction.

As a Dietitian Nutritionist, I will answer your questions.

To begin with, what you need to know is that one of these two sensations allows you to give your body the energy it needs according to its caloric expenditure while the other pushes you to eat out of greed, out of compulsion. and will result in gaining excess weight.

But so who is who?

“I’m always hungry” VS “I’m never hungry”

Being hungry all the time is not really feeling hunger, it is an impression, a poorly understood sensation in your body. Hunger is a food sensation, it results in a pit in the stomach, gurgling sounds or even a slightly tight throat.

Never feeling hungry is when we don’t pay enough attention to the sensations in our body and that’s not a behavior that I’m going to invite you to keep, on the contrary.

Everything happens in the body and more precisely in your stomach, and not in the head. Hunger cannot be controlled, it manifests itself, it’s as “simple” as that… It is an essential point of reference to listen to and respect in order to eat when your body needs it.

It allows you to regulate your overeating (the times when you have exceeded your satiety or eaten without hunger). How ? Waiting for the return of hunger to make the next meal even if this sometimes means moving back the meal time. Yes, it is a difficult exercise which, however, once acquired, will give you a feeling of liberation when it comes to your plate.

Hunger also allows you to enjoy eating because your senses are hungry and you are ready to enjoy the meal because you really need it.

So no, we are not hungry throughout the day, this is a false interpretation of your feelings, and if you are never hungry it is because you are not waiting long enough between your meals.

pop corn

The desire to eat

The desire to eat, for its part, results in food intake which is not motivated by a feeling of hunger. Food then becomes a reward: after a hard day, to celebrate a success, out of boredom, out of habit,… So many reasons that push you to eat without hunger. Do you know this?

But then, if we eat when our body does not need energy, what happens? We accumulate superfluous (emotional) kilos without understanding where they come from, which weigh us down, which are difficult to eliminate…

Eating without hunger should not be banned, it can happen from time to time, we all have social or family obligations or sometimes we simply need a little comfort, there is no harm in that , but the solution is to wait for hunger to return before making the next meal (once again, do you notice?)… Ultimately, this is the secret to regulating the caloric intake given to our body!

Why do these emotions make us eat without hunger?

Eating to fill up, comfort and reassure ourselves is a phenomenon that affects many of us, it is an anchored mechanism, perhaps since early childhood. Very often when a child falls and hurts himself, he is given a candy to console him, the child then records the information that the pain is soothed with something sweet! And how many were deprived of dessert because they behaved badly? The idea here is not to point fingers at those who educated you, oh no, everyone does the best they can with their tools, but rather to understand our history in order to be able to act on it in the present.

You see, these emotions that make you eat prevent you from listening to your body’s food sensations on a daily basis, what a shame, I invite you to take back leadership of your body and food sensations!

to eat an apple

What do we have to do ?

Fortunately, nothing is irreversible about eating sensations. Start by allowing yourself to eat everything, in a varied and balanced way, as soon as you feel a good feeling of hunger! You will realize that this need to reach for food out of desire, impulse or boredom will decrease very significantly, until it disappears when work on yourself is carried out in parallel with a health professional.

So yes ! When you sit down hungry you have the right to eat fries in the evening, pasta in sauce with grated cheese, a hamburger or biscuits.

This What makes us gain weight is not what we eat but how we eat it.

My little secret? Wait to feel a really feeling of hunger and… Understand that nothing makes you gain weight except: Frustration – Breakdown – Guilt => the 3 funny people ladies from the vicious circle of eating disorders!

Easier said than done ?

The work to do is to listen to what your body has to tell you… Help it finally calm down! It starts with awareness: “Am I hungry or not” before eating anything. Listening to your food sensations will allow you to regain a healthy relationship with food and your body.

Do not hesitate Don’t ask for help if you feel the need! We, the Dietitians, that’s what we’re here for.