By Funke Oshifuye
The two main drives that influence our desire to eat and thus take in food are hunger and appetite. Hunger, our primary physiological or internal drive is controlled by internal body mechanisms.
Organs such as the liver and brain interact with hormones, nervous system and other parts of the body to influence feeding behavior. Appetite on the other hand, is our primary psychological drive to eat and is affected by external food choice mechanisms such as seeing a tempting bowl of egusi soup.
When you fulfill either or both drives by eating sufficient food, it brings about a state of satiety, temporarily halting our desire to continue eating, all thanks to the hypothalamus, our satiety regulator. When stimulated, either by hunger or appetite, cells in the feeding center of the hypothalamus signals us to eat.
As we eat, hunger decreases. When we are full, the satiety center of the hypothalamus are stimulated and we stop eating. Chemicals, surgery and some cancers can destroy the feeding and satiety centers. Without the feeding center activity, we tend to eat little and eventually lose weight and without the satiety center activity, we eat our way to obesity!
Feeding behavior also changes in response to body fat content. Surgical removal of body fat like liposuction and tummy tuck can increase food consumption. Social customs, peers and authority figures can influence the desire to eat. Concern about appearance when on a date can influence the food choices made. We are also likely to eat more when we are with a large group of people than when with a few people or alone.
Also when someone else is ‘picking up the cheque’, we tend to overeat. The easy availability of fast food has made weight control even harder. But does appetite really regulate what we eat? Almost everyone including me has encountered a mouth watering dessert and devoured it even on a full stomach. We often eat because we see food. It smells good, looks good and tastes good. We might eat because it’s the right time of the day eg breakfast or lunch or we are celebrating. Stress or depression can often send you to the refridgerator.
The next time you pick up a candy bar, a bowl of ice cream or ask for a second helping, ask yourself, Why am I eating? Where food is ample, appetite-not hunger mostly triggers eating. Try to keep track of what triggers your eating for a few days.
Appetite or Hunger? Keep in mind that your body is not a dumping ground. You can eat your way to obesity overtime if you are not careful to balance your energy intake with your energy expenditure.