What is hunger? We all know it as strong contractions of our tummy with an instinct to eat our favourite foods or most often whatever is easily available. For the diabetics or the overweight hunger can be a trauma.

Scientifically, hunger is body's food intake regulator. It is a sensation that motivates our eating habits.

Physiologically, feeling hungry is not directly associated with any part of the body. We feel hungry when the energy reserves of our body fall below balance or when blood glucose levels drop below critical point. The brain needs a constant supply of glucose and hence hunger is body's mechanism to alert us to feed the brains.

When an empty stomach contracts, nerve endings on the stomach wall sends messages to the brains and we experience hunger.

Ambient temperature also influences our hunger making us want to eat more in a cold environment. On the contrary, hot temperatures make us thirsty but not hungry.

Appetite on the other hand is an emotional sensation when we desire that dessert even at the end of a sumptuous heavy meal!

In the control of obesity, managing hunger and appetite is the main challenge.

Food diaries where one writes down one's motivation to hunger and situations that causes one to feel hungry (appetite) is important in understanding one's own pattern of appetite and hunger.

In a mood of celebration one can feel bigger appetite and hunger, so also in a mood of deep depression or boredom or when stressed out. The food diary helps one realize these moods and take steps to manage it.

Self control in controlling portions when hungry is the mainstay of a “diet”.

It takes about 20 minutes for the brains to get the message of satiety. Therefore the need to eat slowly.

Hunger is a complex sensation because it is physiological, psychological too. Eating is a big part of our socializing and overeating is therefore to be dealt with from both physiological and emotional aspect.

Dietician

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Some helpful tips in managing hunger and appetite:

Chewing the food well

Using fork and knife to eat so that one eats in small mouthfuls

Choosing high fibre foods that fill the stomach

Leaving the table once the food is eaten

Brushing your teeth or using a mouth wash so that the taste of food does not remain in one's mouth