Is it hunger or your appetite?

My roommate in college had this odd habit of getting up part-way through a meal and walking around the room

My roommate in college had this odd habit of getting up part-way through a meal and walking around the room.

Curious as to what she was doing, she explained this was her strategy for deciding whether or not she was full.

While socially this was strange behaviour, she did have a good point: many of us do not know when we have had enough to eat.

On a scientific level, the act of eating triggers the release of certain chemicals. These chemicals continue to rise for 10 to 30 minutes, at which point your brain registers fullness. After your meal, these chemicals stay elevated for three to five hours, keeping you feeling satiated. Later, as chemical levels fall, the feeling of hunger returns.

Unfortunately, our intake of food is influenced by more than just hunger: habits, schedules, environments and mostly appetite. Appetite is our desire to eat and can be triggered by the sight or smell of food, our emotions or the time of day.

Christmas is an especially challenging time to control our appetites because we are constantly surrounded by delicious food. Furthermore, the holiday season brings about emotions and environments that make us want to eat more. So what are some tips to help be more mindful of our eating this holiday season:

Before you eat, take a moment and ask yourself why you are eating. Are you hungry? Bored? Stressed?

If true hunger is not the answer, ask yourself if there is something else you could do to fill this void instead. Try to delay giving in to your craving – it might go away. Make yourself a cup of unsweetened tea or coffee.

Keep “problematic foods” out of sight (or out of your house).

Sometimes just seeing a food can trigger your desire to eat it.

Slow down your eating – savour and enjoy it. Eat how much you think you should and then wait 20 minutes to allow yourself time to feel full.

Once you think you have eaten enough, clear your plate and engage in another activity to get your mind off food – or, if socially appropriate, do a few laps of the room.

-Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake Hospital.


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