Hunger & Appetite

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between the two. If you thought that they are the same thing, think again. Hunger is defined as “the physical need for food” whereas appetite is known as “the psychological desire to eat”. That’s right, hunger is a need, while appetite is a desire. We all follow a clock based approach to food, which means that we eat because of appetite, and don’t listen to hunger at all. Back in the day, some thousands of years ago, our hunter gatherer forefathers would have probably eaten to a mixed need / desire system. Desire when there was ample food, like for a couple of days after a hunt, and, need based when food was in short supply and had to be severely rationed.

Our eating behavior is controlled by very complex hormonal signals. Many hormonal secretions control our food behavior but the two key hormones that regulate our eating habits are Ghrelin & Leptin. Grehlin which is secreted mostly by the lining of the stomach signals hunger, while Leptin a secretion of our fat cells, signal satiety to the brain, indicating that we have had enough. Both of these hormones stimulate the hypothalamus and give rise to senses of being hungry or well fed. They also play a part in energy partitioning, making them a very important part of our metabolism.

Since Leptin is a creation of fat cells, it infers, that the fatter the person, the more leptin he/she secretes, the fuller he/she should feel. But nature has it’s own ways of working. Obesity has been strongly associated with insulin resistance and here leptin resistance also comes into play. You may be secreting enough leptin to tell your brain that you have eaten enough, but the resistant brain cells don’t listen. Your brain may even feel that you are starving. Major corporations selling packaged foods add leptin suppressant chemicals to their wares. Therefore you get addicted to their stuff, the more you eat, the more you want to eat, till your stomach starts to stretch and you have to give up. That’s the real reason why a soft drink will never be able to quench your thirst, as advertised. You will always want more.

From the time we’ve adopted a low carb high fat way of eating, we’ve found our portion sizes gradually diminishing with time. Now, we need lesser and lesser amounts of food. We’ve also learnt to listen to our body signals. That soft burp, is leptin telling you, it’s time to stop eating. Among my 2015 resolutions, is a very important one concerning regulating my food habits to align with my body signals. Though I’ve not yet started doing it, very soon I will abandon eating by a clock based system. Eating breakfast, lunch or dinner at stipulated times will not happen. Rather I will eat only when hungry and stop the minute my body tells me so. With that I think my stagnated weight loss will be kick started again, and I will have a leaner body, that I so badly want.

Take home message, Feed your hunger, not your appetite.


  1. Will the HFLC diet automatically make our bodies more sensitive to hunger or do we do anything else more proactively

    1. Depends on the degree of compliance. If the fat content of diet is between 75-85 % you can achieve Nutritional Ketosis and reap the benefits talked about. Slithering in and out of ketosis, leads to something Dr. Peter Attia refers to as the "zone of misery". This is because as we start to achieve ketosis, the brain is the last to adapt. Disrupting this midway puts us back again on glycolysis. Once the brain has keto adapted, we become alert to a lot of the body signals that were otherwise lost in a lot of body clutter.

    2. My dear Shyam, Very useful info! You say, soft burp is a no-entry sign for any more intake of food. But I get almost constant burping, even taking two or one chapati, one meal a day. This is specially in the retreats, where I have to do meditation almost whole day with frequent breaks in sitting posture. During morning and evening breaks I try to do lot of walking. My mother had the same problem. So could it be just hereditary? Your advise on this! Ashok Mama

    3. Hello Mama,

      I hope that you are not confusing a soft burp with a belch. The former is an automatic signal which indicates satiety, whereas the latter is an indicator of poor gut flora health.

      I hope you have read all the blog posts from the beginning. I say that because what is propagated here, is a Ketogenic way of eating, which would mean severely curtailing your Carbohydrate intake, and replacing them with compact high energy good Fats. And I know for a fact that your dietary system does not allow much scope for it, due to religious or habitual beliefs.

      That said, I would like you to read the post on Modern Wheat for a better understanding. In my personal interactions, I always ask newcomers to drop 3 things from diet immediately. These are Wheat, Corn & Soya, as these are the most genetically modified and corrupted items in food these days. They are present in some form or another in almost every packaged product on market shelves, presenting a challenge to one's discipline and seriousness.

      I would suggest you eliminate these, in any form whatsoever, from your diet, for a couple of weeks and see if there is any difference. It should help. Eat your vegetables & Dal with gay abandon to supplement for the missing rotis, and add ghee to your hearts content.

  2. Great post as usual, Shyam ji. Thank you. Sanjeeb.