Humans have evolved a system that tells us when and how much to eat so that our nutritional and functional needs are met. Hunger centres in the brain and the resulting secretion of certain hunger and fullness hormones tell us when to start and stop eating as well as what to eat.
We’ve all experienced the feeling that we *need* a certain food and that will sometimes be because it’s what the body actually requires – then again sometimes it’s because we’ve created a craving and expectation by overeating that food, particularly so with sugar. I get this when I run 10km Every Day in May, my milk bill goes through the roof, I get such a craving.
It’s not just instinct
If we only followed these natural instincts we’d all be a healthy weight with no conscious effort, this is how children eat until their behaviour is influenced by adults. However, psychological, social, environmental and upbringing factors play a huge part in our food choices and how much we eat.
Eating is pleasurable and so many pleasurable foods pass before our eyes nowadays, and we can find it hard to resist. Some people can very well resist but others can’t or don’t want to, that’s just human nature. Additionally we tend to get more pleasure from salty or sweet foods, so rather than wanting a bowl of stir fried veg we tend to go for crisps or sweets, chips or cake.
Another factor is the variety of foods that are on offer. So we tend to eat more if there’s a bigger variety of foods in front of us, regardless of hunger. We have that desire for change in flavour.
For instance, given a plate of a single food you’d be more likely to stop eating it before you’d finished than if you had a plate of lots of different foods. That’s the difference between listening to hunger and acting on our desire for new tastes. Also like being full from a main course but being able to eat a pudding because it pleases the palate in a different way.
Emotion also hugely affects appetite. Some people eat more when they feel negative emotions, some eat less. Some eat more when they feel happy, and some less. Someone who is lonely might be less inclined to make themselves ‘proper’ food than someone living with others, so may be more likely to be malnourished.
Appetite is complex!
To sum up
Most of the time tap into and honour your instincts of hunger and fullness– we help you happily rediscover those with The eatnaturally plan and our support – but accept that sometimes other things will influence how much you eat and that’s OK, and nice.