Throughout the day, your appetite may be all over the place—you’re hungry, then you feel stuffed, then you’re fighting off the urge to snack. When you’re trying to make nutritious choices, these fluctuations can be frustrating. Fortunately, when you understand how your appetite works, you can find ways to take control.
Your appetite seems like it should be a simple thing: eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. But it’s actually a complex physiological process that involves many factors. Here are just a few:
Hormones. Researchers have identified more than 20 different hormones that play a role in regulating appetite. Some hormones signal the brain that it’s time to eat. Others activate when the stomach is stretched, telling your brain that you’re full. And still other hormones regulate things like fat storage, blood sugar levels, and the pleasure you feel from eating.
Genetics. Due to their unique genetic makeup, some people have overactive hormones that either trigger or suppress their appetite. Genes can also have an influence on the kinds of foods you crave, your metabolism, and more.
Environment. Your surroundings matter. The foods available to you, who you’re eating with (or if you’re eating alone), the climate, even the color of your plate—all of these can influence how hungry you feel and how much you eat.
Since outside factors can influence how hungry you feel, it may sometimes seem like your appetite is a speeding car and you’re just along for the ride. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to steer your appetite in a healthier direction.
Good nutrition is key to a happier, healthier you. And your appetite can be one of your greatest strengths. With more knowledge of how it functions—plus the healthy tips above—you can make sure your appetite is working for you and not against you.
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