Hunger vs Appetite


It’s leading up to your lunch break at work, you had breakfast hours ago, your stomach is starting to rumble and you’re getting irritable- guess what, YOU’RE HUNGRY!

Compare the above to when you’re on the couch at night, stomach full of dinner, but you go back to the kitchen countless times for cookies, ice cream, chips, you name it.

There is a difference between HUNGER and APPETITE

True hunger  is when your body is  genuinely asking for food, because at that point in time it is requiring energy for the many things it is trying to do/complete. It’s okay to feel hungry, and if you are generally healthy it isn’t an emergency to get food inside you straight away, but you should probably eat sooner than later. Below are some of the main attributes of hunger:

  • A physiological request by your body for food 

  • Mild discomfort, or ‘gurgling’ in your stomach (just below your left ribs) 

  • Becomes apparent with food present, OR WITHOUT food present (EG at your office desk with no food in sight) 

  • Hunger will dissipate once sufficient food has been eaten 

On the other hand, appetite is the MENTAL DESIRE to eat. You have an appetite when you are truly hungry, but may also have an appetite when you’re not actually hungry. Emotions like stress, sadness, boredom and even excitement can increase your mental desire to eat, and the sight/smell/sound of food can increase your desire to eat as well.

Here’s some general characteristics about appetite, try compare them to the points on hunger earlier:

  • A mental desire to eat food, hunger may or may not actually be present 

  • Internal factors like emotions (stress, sadness, boredom, anger) can trigger appetite

  • External factors like a food stimulus (sight, smell, sound of food) can also trigger appetite

  • Appetite may or MAY NOT disappear after eating food

It’s okay to eat based on appetite sometimes, and it’s not anything to feel guilty about. But, it’s good to be aware of the difference between the two, and eat according to your genuine hunger as much as possible.

Eating more in line with your hunger and fullness (satiety) signals will lead you more closely to eating how much your body actually requires, whereas eating according to your appetite too often may lead you to eat in excess of your energy requirements.


Long story short, be hunger aware!