Dr Eric Pugliesi
Understanding "appetite" and "hunger"
Updated: Apr 20, 2021
How many times have we heard people saying they have a second stomach for ice cream or desserts? How many times have we reached satiety and been tricked by our brain to push a few extra calories in?
Yes, it happens and we have all blamed ourselves for lacking self-control. Our eating behaviour is complex and has two different kinds of eating . Understanding these will let us be mindful of how much we need to eat and find ways around cravings we all get.
Let me start by breaking down Homeostatic Eating. Homeostasis is synonym of internal stability and homeostatic eating responds to a perceived energy need by the brain. So the brain thinks you need energy and it makes you hungry, it makes you more interested in food.
Of course, if people only ate because their bodies needed calories, things would be simple. But that's not the case. People don't eat necessarily because of the signals that govern our energy stores...sometimes, you just want food. This my friends is called Hedonic Hunger and it plays a big role in why we all sin.
Palatable food can be seductive and Hedonic eating can become irresistible beyond hunger and negative consequences arise.
The most widely accepted theory about hedonic hunger is that the human predisposition to highly palatable foods, which humans developed long ago, has run havoc in the modern environment, with the wide availability of really delicious food. People want to eat even when they don't need to. And the more often people eat highly palatable foods, the more their brains learn to expect and want them. You can call that hunger, but the reason for that "hungry" feeling appears to have much more to do with seeking pleasure than with needing calories.
But it's important for people to realise that pleasure plays a role in all types of eating. Pleasure is relevant to both homeostatic and hedonic eating, whereas the need for calories only comes into play during homeostatic eating. For example, when someone is homeostatically hungry, that person is motivated by both the calories and the pleasure that eating brings. Someone who is hedonically hungry, on the other hand, is motivated only by pleasure.
Now that you understand the principles behind your hunger and cravings I will introduce you to how relevant psychology intervention is to weight management. On my next entry we will learn how psychological therapies play an important role in controlling the Hedonic Pathway.