Appetite VS. Hunger – What’s The Difference for Weight Loss?

Appetite VS. Hunger – What’s The Difference for Weight Loss?


Are you hungry, or do you just have a hearty appetite?

Note: This post is an adaptation from my book The Beautiful Body Guide.

We are all familiar with that feeling of wanting to eat. We crave food for various reasons: hunger, habits, need for nutrition, need for comfort, during that time of the month, and even because we crave what we usually eat and when we usually eat.

So, how can you tell the difference between when you need to eat (hunger), and when you just want food but don’t need it (appetite)?

Hunger is a biological need activated from within us. It is a cue given to you by your body letting you know that you need nutrients (you need food). It is the feeling that you get after you have finished a workout, and at breakfast, lunch and dinner time when your body needs fuel for sustenance, fuel for it’s cells and fuel for normal functioning of the body.

Appetite, on the other hand, is completely different to hunger. Appetite is activated by the desire to eat and not the need to eat. It can be brought on by a simple thought of food – or by the sight, smell or taste of food. It can make us want to eat food even though our bodies have been nourished with enough food. It’s very important to eat when we are hungry and when our bodies need fuel and nutrients. However, if we are trying to lose weight then it can be important for us not to feed our appetites every time we see, smell or taste or even think about food.


The need for fuel (food) vs. The desire to eat

Controlling your appetite, and practicing self-control is vital for weight-loss and can help you to successfully achieve your body goals. If you constantly give into your desires to feed your appetite, then you may be sabotaging your attempts at achieving your goals.

However, you still need to EAT if you are going to lose weight and keep it off. In fact, you need to listen to your hunger and eat the right food (and right amount of food) if you are to successfully lose weight. 

By listening to your hunger and managing your appetite, you will be able to better control and manage your calorie intake in a healthy way. It is important to reduce your overall calorie consumption in order lose weight, but reducing your calorie intake too much can cause more harm than good. 

If you starve yourself, your body may try to hold onto any nutrients that is has stored (as fat), and so you may not be able to lose those fat stores, and if you starve yourself it is possible to be more likely to binge on food later (because you’re so hungry).

If losing weight is one of your health goals, eating a balanced diet and making sure that you are consuming enough nutrients is just as important as being mindful of our overall calorie consumption.


Food is fuel, and starvation diets are so last season

We need to eat because our bodies need food for fuel so that we can survive. Every single day it is important for us to feed our bodies with all of the nutrients and fuel that our bodies need for regular functioning.

Our brains, hearts, lungs, digestive systems and nervous systems all need nutrients and fuel that we receive through food to function properly – even if we are trying to lose weight.

If losing weight is one of your health goals, it is important to understand that starving yourself won’t help you to reach that goal. Because of this, you need to learn to differentiate between your hunger and your appetite. Furthermore, this is why it is so important for you to LISTEN to your hunger.



If you are uncertain as to how to differentiate between your hunger and your appetite, ask yourself these questions when you are craving food:

1 – Is it a regular meal time?  (breakfast/lunch/dinner)

2 – Have you skipped a meal?

3 – Have you been eating the same food/meal every day or more than once a day?

4 – Have you had any infections or been sick lately?

5 – Is it that time of the month/ or are you pregnant or breastfeeding? 

6 – Were you hungry before you saw/smelled/thought of that food?


If you have answered ‘NO’ to any of these, then your ‘hunger’ is simply just appetite. 

If you have answered ‘yes’ then your body is telling you that it needs nutrients (food).

If you have been sick, it’s that time of the month, or you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, then your body is likely needing specific nutrients, and in some cases you may need to consult with your general health practitioner or doctor.


If you have been eating the same meal or type of food every day or more than once a day, then it is possible that your body is craving it because it has become addicted to that food.

You crave what you eat – which is why it is so difficult to change your diet. If this is the case, and you find yourself craving and consuming one particular kind of food, then it is possible that your body is also lacking important nutrients that are not found in that food.

For example, if you are craving oats and find yourself eating it more than once a day, your body is likely needing protein and vegetables because you are only feeding it carbs. Because of this, your body is hungry for nutrients, not calories, and you should consider changing your diet to include a larger variety of foods.

To successfully lose weight, it is important to listen to your hunger. But it is important to note that your hunger may simply indicate that you need more nutrients, not necessarily more calories.

So listen to your body, and learn to recognize and differentiate between the signs of hunger and your appetite.


Note: This post is an adaptation from my book The Beautiful Body Guide.

Photos by Liezl Jayne Strydom – for / Additional photos by Unsplash