Hunger & Fullness VS Appetite & Satiety

What do you think the difference is? 

Let’s start off by defining what appetite, hunger, fullness and satiety are…

What is appetite? 

Appetite is simply the desire to eat. It can and usually is a result of hunger, but can have other causes, such as emotional or environmental conditions.

What is hunger? 

Hunger is an uncomfortable or painful physical sensation caused by insufficient consumption of dietary energy.

Many dieters have a disordered relationship with hunger, they can see hunger as a “success” or / and they can be very fearful of it.

What is fullness? 

Feeling full is simply a physical sensation of your tummy being full and expanded. 

Again, dieters may have a difficult relationship with fullness. Feeling full may represent binge eating behaviour or “failure” of some kind.

What is satiety? 

Satiety is the state of having more than enough. It’s a feeling is grounding pleasurable satisfaction. 

Imagine having just eaten a deliciously satisfying meal and having met all of your physical and emotional needs, without any guilt. That’s satiety.

Fullness is not the same as satiety 

You can eat to satiation or full satisfaction (I consider them to mean the same) and have a full tummy after eating. Or you can eat to full satisfaction and not feel full at all. This is because feeling deeply satisfied is due to your physical and emotional needs being met, not just your physical needs. 

Eg – you could eat a huge plate of chicken and broccoli 🥦 (😭) and feel physically stuffed yet still have a huge unmet emotional need for pleasure and enjoyment (and fats).

Eg – you could eat a delicious bar of chocolate and feel emotionally satisfied yet still be physically hungry and lacking in nutrients. 

Eg – you could eat a small plate of macaroni cheese with a side salad and some garlic bread and not be “full” but you can still feel completely satisfied physically and emotionally.

Full satisfaction looks like meeting all of your needs at once.

I’m writing this after I’ve just eaten a delicious veggie burger with sweet potato fries, a ginger beer and some gorgeous chocolates for dessert. I feel physically “round tummy” full and emotionally satisfied. I feel good. Like it’s hit the spot. I have no desire to eat anything else yet I don’t feel like I’ve over-indulged to the point where I don’t feel great.

You can also eat to satiety and be way past a comfortable level of physical fullness. This is normal and is common if you’ve restricted 🚫 previously (which if you’re reading this I’m assuming you have!) 

Trust that your body always knows best and keep honouring your needs. The key word as usual is ALLOW. Keep allowing all foods and give yourself permission to experience pleasure. You are more than worthy and pleasure is your birthright. 

The more you allow yourself to eat to full physical and emotional satisfaction, the less food will be a “thing” and instead it will just be a normal pleasurable (and sometimes a chore-like) part of life. 

Nourishment and pleasure 

Whenever I eat a meal, I always ensure that I am nourishing myself physically AND emotionally. Meaning that if something is super healthy for me yet it tastes bland as fuck, I’m not eating it. I’ve dieted longer enough in my life to never eat out of pure “nourishment and fuel” alone again. Nope! 

So an example of my lunch choice is a rocket, basil and beetroot salad with crispy fried tempeh and sweet chilli sauce. 

An example of my breakfast choice is a bowl of porridge (oatmeal) with coconut milk, berries and Nutella. 

When I was binge eating it was a jar of Nutella warmed up in the microwave and then I drank it…! 

Hunger is not the same as appetite 

Have you ever been physically hungry yet you don’t have an appetite? 

This is common when you’re sick or unwell but it’s also a normal experience for healthy normal eaters.

Looking through the cupboards and you’re just like “meh” I’m hungry but I really don’t fancy anything in particular… 

Eating when you feel this way is a human necessity that feels a little bit of a chore. 

This never happened to me until I gave up dieting and found food freedom! Now I would say I experience this several times a month. it’s weird but can happen quite often for “normal” eaters and I do now consider myself in the normal eaters club. 

I encourage you to absolutely eat if you don’t have an appetite yet you’re hungry. It’s self-care. 

Have you ever fancied something to eat when you’re not physically hungry? 

Think of walking past a bakery or ice cream shop. Or just simply fancying some chocolate. 

It’s ok to follow your appetite and is actually super important in order to feel fully satisfied and normal around food. 

Usually, hunger and appetite come at the same time but dieters and restrictors tend to satisfy their hunger without satisfying their appetite. 

This usually leads to cravings and not to mention the diet binge cycle which can confuse dieters because they say they’re not restricting. Restriction can be both physical and mental. 

Dieting is not an action it’s a state of mind. 

What is a craving? 

An intense, urgent desire or longing for something in particular.

An intense desire for something is often due to your needs not being met and therefore you are lacking in what the cravings give you. 

Eg – a craving for adventure due to boredom – feeling unfulfilled. 

Eg – Craving chocolate due to restricting calories or of restricting chocolate specifically or/and due to lack of pleasure and “down time”. 

What does chocolate bring you?

Relaxation? Pleasure? “Me time”? End of the work day? Nostalgia? All of these things? 

Eg – your body may be lacking in nutrients macro or micro or vitamins and minerals and so it will keep craving food in an attempt to meet those unmet nutritional needs. 

Cravings are perfectly fine – we have them for a reason. The best way to get rid of a craving is to satisfy the craving… radical I know!

Eg- craving for adventure you could either:

  1. unconsciously create drama in your life so that you experience some excitement or
  2. you could honour the adventure craving and go backpacking for 6 months… 

Eg – You could crave chocolate and then:

  1. eat a protein bar instead which won’t hit the spot so you’d most likely eat a chocolate-covered rice cake and then another low calories chocolate thing. Or
  2. you could just eat the chocolate you craved in the first place. 

Eg – if you think your diet is lacking in nutrients (seek advice from a nutritionist if in doubt) you could: 

  1. Keep trusting your body with what it is craving and hope that your needs get met (which might be difficult as foods these days aren’t like they used to be) 
  2. Make sure you’ve got all your bases covered by eating enough protein, carbs, fats and fibre, fruits and vegetables and supplements.

I recommend everyone take the following regardless of what their diet is like:

  1. A decent vitamin and mineral supplement.
  2. Magnesium (over 80% of the world population is deficient) 
  3. Vitamin D3 8,000 IC a day 
  4. Omega 3
  5. Probiotic 

Mental hunger 

Mental hunger is when you’re thinking about food whether you’re hungry or not. Mental hunger is a sure sign of restriction and a lack of satiety and is extremely common when you first give up dieting. 

When you first give up dieting you may experience intense mental hunger even though you’re physically allowing all foods.

This is completely normal and is due to a combination of rebelling against all of the past restrictions and currently mentally restricting (aka – eating this cannot be ok?!) this will subside over time if you keep ALLOWING and eating whenever you’re thinking about food. 

Mental hunger can look like

  • Spending hours looking at cookbooks or watching “food porn” on YouTube.
  • Daydreaming about what you’d love to eat if you really gave yourself full permission.
  • Thinking about what you’re going to eat for lunch when you’ve not even finished breakfast.
  • Getting exceptionally excited and intensely looking forward to meals out and eating opportunities that “justify” you eat what you desire.
  • Wondering if you should or shouldn’t eat the chocolate bar, second slice of cake or eat something else even though you just had lunch etc.
  • Lying in bed at night reminiscing on what you’d love to eat.

Mental hunger counts as hunger!

Most of us tend to discount mental hunger as if it is not as valid as physical hunger.

Hunger is defined as “a craving or need for food” or “an uneasy sensation occasioned by the lack of food.” Mental hunger is both of these things. Sure, they may be no physical signals, but it is certainly a craving and it is definitely uneasy.

Mental hunger counts as hunger. If you are thinking about food, your body wants food.

This terrifies most people as they say “but I am thinking about food all of the time, surely I don’t need to eat all of the time?!”

If you are thinking about food, you need to eat food. Unrestricted eating and true allowance means just this: that you respond to mental hunger.

As you keep allowing this, the mental hunger will lessen. Your desire to eat all the time will gradually decrease. One of my group coaching clients has experienced this recently. Around 6 months ago at the beginning of the process, she was concerned as she would wake up in the middle of the night every night with the desire to eat. I asked her to keep allowing this (alongside other practical things such as making sure she was eating enough during the day etc) as her body needs to feel safe that there was always enough food.

She struggled to understand why she was doing this at first but after realising how long and how severely she had been restricted over the course of her life, it became clear to her. Now that her body and brain are in a state of balance, the signals that her brain was giving her to eat all the time are no longer required. She shared in the group last week that she is no longer waking up at the night to eat and her weight has balanced out.

If you think that you are “weight restored” but still have mental hunger, this indicates that you are still restricting food. It may not be that you are calorically restricting but if you have any food rules or “shouldnt’s” then that is restriction and your brain knows it.

The brain will obsess over what it wants but can’t have

I’m going to share a passage from the incredible book “Rehabilitate, Rewire, Recover” by Tabitha Farrar which describes perfectly how mental hunger works:

“Picture a person in a desert, let’s call her Jody. Jody is dying of thirst. Jody’s mind is overrun by thoughts of water. She dreams about water. She sees mirages of water. Jody’s brain would be singularly focused on water and not interested in much else. This is your brain on restriction.

Jody in the desert, on finding water, would go wild. She would drink it and drink it and want to do nothing other than being near water for a while. She would have a little honeymoon period with that oasis where all she would want to do would be lie next to it and take sips every now and again.

However, if you put Jody in a house where water was on tap, over time she would cease to obsess about water because water is no longer scarce. When Jody knows that water is in the tap and therefore there for her whenever she wants it, she would relax about it. Jody’s brain would switch away from obsessing about water and onto other things like kittens.”

Something similar happened to me when I started my food freedom journey. Because I had previously restricted chocolate many, many, many times before, chocolate was always my binge food when I had “fallen off the wagon.”

When I gave myself full permission to eat it I went crazy with it. Then I thought I had just paid a coach to tell me it was ok to binge eat! 🤣 The only way I started wanting other foods was to keep allowing the chocolate. Now I enjoy chocolate whenever I want it and have it in the house without inhaling it all in one sitting. 

Trust

So as I end this episode, I’ll like to remind you that your body knows what the fuck she’s doing! Keep surrendering to what you want, keep allowing, and keep trusting. And before you know it, you’ll be truly living in food freedom!

If you’d like support through this messy and magnificent process, I am here for you lovely.  

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