What is False Hunger and How to Deal with It?


How to tell if you are really hungry:

  • You may be able to hear and feel rumblings in your tummy. That is your stomach reminding you that it would like something to eat.
  • You may have ‘hunger pangs’ – a gnawing or empty feeling higher up in your stomach.
  • You will probably not have eaten for at least two or three hours.
  • You may have taken some recent prolonged exercise – e.g., a morning’s walk.

A real appetite is what you get when you are genuinely hungry. People’s appetite varies from day to day and also, in the case of women, from week to week during the menstrual cycle. And, of course, it varies according to how much work (activity) your body has been doing.

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False hunger

Many of us often feel false hunger and overweight people tend to feel it more frequently than slim people. This way they are ‘conned’ into eating when they don’t need to. Here are the main ‘false hunger’ situations and how to deal with them:

Taste experience

How often have you reckoned yourself full to the brim after the main course of a meal but suddenly felt able to eat again when the dessert trolley came round? Your poor old flagging appetite has been stimulated by the thought of trying a new taste, a new texture, after what has gone before. Making this choice occasionally – and allowing for it – won’t harm you, but if you habitually override your natural instinct that says ‘I’m full’ and continue to ‘eat for taste’ you will have problems. Deal with this step by step. You’re faced with a dessert trolley, say. You then have three courses of action to choose from: you can opt for a plate of fresh fruit and ‘steal’ a bit of what you fancy from your partner’s plate; you can ask for a half portion; or you can take the decision to say ‘no’ and discover the pleasure that springs from knowing you can control false hunger just as well as a slim person can.

Habit hunger

If you always eat at fixed times, whether or not you are hungry, and then are annoyed to find yourself hungry at an hour when you don’t normally eat, you are too much of a slave to the clock. It is perhaps convenient to eat at set times but it isn’t particularly natural. If you can get more in tune with your natural ‘body clock’ it will help you to stay slim.

For example, many people I know don’t feel hungry at breakfast time but, because it is traditional, they sit down to a breakfast. By mid-morning they do feel hungry, so they eat something else. Why not skip the breakfast and make mid-morning the ‘breakfast’ time to eat when you will really enjoy doing so? Another example.- many people eat their evening meal at around 6 p.m. when they get home from work and a lot of them will be starving by 9 p.m. Why not have the evening meal a little later? Take a look at your meal times and see whether they really do fit in with your body needs.

Trigger foods

Perhaps you’re familiar with this syndrome: you eat a meal, then, an hour later, wander down the street past the baker’s and find yourself desperate for a cream doughnut. This is a ‘trigger food’. The foods that are most likely to trigger your appetite are fresh bread and other bakery items, cheese, and chocolate. The best ploy here is avoidance tactics – e.g., walk down a different street so you don’t have to pass the baker’s. If it isn’t possible to steer clear, you have to decide whether instead you will allow yourself that food in amounts controlled by you (remember, food is an inanimate object; you are the boss), or else replace the ‘trigger food’ with something less calorific and less appealing to you – e.g., Edam instead of your favorite Stilton cheese, a crusty wholemeal roll instead of a croissant.