How many times do you think you've come down with the munchies while realizing you weren't actually hungry? On the flip side, how many times have you come from a workout realizing you couldn't even look at food? I have definitely found myself rejecting anything but water after a long run. You see, it's really easy to confuse hunger with appetite and to tell yourself that you do or don't need to eat. However, we should recognize that one of these things refers to the physical aspect and the other is tied in with the emotional

The Definition

tea, coffee, chocolate
Erin Thomas

Ever felt your stomach growling after going to class without breakfast? Yeah, that's you being hungry. Hunger is the need to eat; hunger pangs become signals to your brain that you essentially need fuel. Appetite, on the other hand, elicits an emotional response. It is the crazy look in your eyes when you see the waiter walking with your double cheeseburger from the other side of the room.

The primary difference between hunger and appetite is that appetite is influenced by your brain and can thus be ignored. Trouble happens when you confuse the two and try to control your hunger instead. Your hunger fights your appetite, and often times your lack of appetite wins out. 

The Science

wine, coffee, beer
Vicky Gu

The science behind this is not as complicated as it seems. Leptin is a hormone that is produced by fat cells that signals satiety, and this may be a key component in triggering eating disorders. Low levels of leptin are associated with lower levels of endocannabinoids, brain chemicals that regulate appetite. Lower levels of endocannabinoids make people feel less hungry, whereas higher levels tend to increase appetite and promote binge eating.

This explains why it's really easy for people with anorexia to continue starving themselves for long periods of time and for binge eaters to keep eating despite them being fully saturated. 

The Effects

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Julia Gilman

Eating disorders are harmful on an entire spectrum of severity, ranging from the nagging self-deprecation to the absolute life-threatening scenarios. Anxiety, social media and other external influences can cause people's minds to take full control of their appetites and start to manipulate their diets. This is dangerous because it goes against what their bodies would normally need to function. It is important to consciously understand the consequences of trying to fight your hunger before making an effort to do so. It's unfortunate to see how this affects so many people and how our emotions can eventually influence chemically induced reactions, which is why we have to be careful about the way that we all approach food. 

The Experience

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Lauren Lamm

As a victim of anorexia, specifically hypergymnasia, I understand how easy it is to convince yourself that you aren't hungry. Having something to control becomes a coping mechanism that can eventually become dangerous to your health. For many reasons, I used to trick myself into thinking that I'm not hungry. Other times I would starve myself after exercising, telling myself that I don't need to refuel. A lot of this is founded upon pent up guilt and anxiety. Binge eating or starving comes from trying to find solace in a lack of self-control. Much like alcoholism, it is a vice, especially when you lack the ability to distinguish between hunger and appetite and your hunger fights your appetite. Personally, it gave me something to hold on to, but at the root of it I know that it's not the care that my body needs. 

The Advice

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Anna Arteaga

The only words that I could give anyone in this struggle are to find balance. Understand the role that food plays in giving fuel to your body. Learn to enjoy food as well–life is too short not to have a bite of that decadent salted chocolate cake. Self-reflect rather than self-control, and instead of having your hunger fight your appetite, allow them to work together.