No matter who you are, you’ve likely noticed that your appetite changes. For some people, these changes may be noticeable only from time to time, while others may experience bigger changes more often.
Appetite changes are a normal bodily response and usually aren’t cause for extreme concern. Yet if you want to learn more about what causes appetite changes and whether there is anything you can do about it, keep reading to learn more.
Why does change in appetite happen?
Appetite is defined as the desire to eat. There are many things that play a role in this desire. Hunger involves many parts of your body, including your brain, nervous system, pancreas, stomach and intestinal tract. The hormone ghrelin is what makes you feel hungry, while the hormone leptin makes you feel full. Many things can influence these hormones and contribute to hunger and/or fullness.
Some of the main factors that influence appetite include:
How balanced your diet is.
Food is made up of different macronutrients, and each of them play a unique roll in fullness levels. Protein has been shown to impact levels of fullness more than carbohydrates or fat. Therefore, eating higher protein meals will likely lead to a more suppressed appetite, compared to eating mostly carbohydrates. This goes for meals and snacks.
In addition, fiber, which is a type of carbohydrate, also contributes to fullness and satiety more so than low or zero fiber carbohydrates. High-fiber foods include things like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans.
The timing of your meals.
Erratic eating, which includes habits like skipping meals, going long periods of time without eating, or grazing on food all day long, disrupts normal blood sugar patterns. When blood sugar is constantly going up and down from either too much or not enough food, it can lead to an uncontrolled appetite.
How physically active you are.
Exercise of any kind burns calories. In order to maintain balance, your body will likely want to replenish these lost calorie by eating. While intense or prolonged exercise has been shown to temporarily decrease appetite, people who are frequently physically active may have an overall higher appetite than those who are more sedentary.
How much muscle mass you have.
A recent study showed that people with a greater muscle mass were show to have decreases in levels of satiety, or fullness. This means they may need to eat more to get full, perhaps due to the fact that muscles burn more calories at res On the other hand, people with a higher fat mass are more likely to have a stronger desire to eat, regardless of satiety.
Your age and life stage.
Appetites tend to be better and stronger in a growing body, such as a child or teen. Appetite may also increase during pregnancy and breastfeeding, when a womens body is growing another life and creating food to nourish it.
As you get older, your appetite may gradually decrease. Your metabolism also slows down during this time, meaning your body burns less calories for fuel, and thus requiring less.
Having an illness.
It is common to have a loss of appetite when sick. This is usually not a big concern unless the illness is prolonged or if major weight changes begin to occur.
Stress and overall emotional state.
Stress, along with things like depression and anxiety and all lead to appetite changes. For some people, appetite may increase, while for others it may be suppressed.
Your surroundings can play a big role in how much you eat. Things like visually seeing food, smelling it, and being around others who are eating, such as in a social setting, can influence your appetite and make you want to eat more than you might otherwise.
You can train your body to expect food simply by the habits you engage in each day. You appetite can be falsely stimulated even in the absence of true hunger. If you’re used to having a morning and evening snack, for example, it is possible to “trick” your brain into feeling as though you need these, even if in reality you do not.
Your hormone levels.
Research has shown that sex hormones play essential roles in controlling appetite in women. Estrogen inhibits food intake, while progesterone and testosterone may stimulate appetite.
Is it possible to make your appetite more balanced?
The answer to this question depends on what is causing it to be sporadic in the first place. Many of the factors that influence your appetite can be controlled (like what you eat and how active you are), but some cannot (like your life stage and whether you are sick).
In general, here are some tips for making your appetite more balanced.
1. Eat balanced meals. Aim to include a source of lean protein, high fiber carbohydrate, and healthy fat at each meal. This will lead to the greatest levels of fullness while also stabilizing your blood sugar.
2, Eat consistently throughout the day. Eating at regular times will help keep your blood sugar the most balanced and prevent blood sugar crashes, which can stimulate the desire to eat (usually of less-healthy foods and more than you need).
3. Try to avoid getting overly hungry or overly full. Paying attention to hunger and fullness cues can help prevent overeating and lead to a more well-controlled appetite.
4. Evaluate your habits. Start to notice whether or how often you eat out of habit and not out of true hunger. Try to honor your appetite by feeding your body only when it actually needs food, at least for the most part.
5. Care for your mental and emotional health. Seek support if you’re dealing with too much stress, mental, or emotional issues. Doing so can benefit multiple areas of your life, including your appetite.
Should you be concerned about a change in appetite?
In most cases, slight fluctuations in appetite are a normal part of life. However, if your appetite is constantly changing, interfering with your normal life, causing noticeable weight changes, or is accompanied by other symptoms like severe fatigue, it is important to talk to your doctor about this right away.
In addition, if you find yourself obsessing over food or struggling with emotional eating , it’s also important to seek help from a professional like a Registered Dietitian.
Food is an essential part of life, and your appetite plays a big role in it. Experiencing appetite changes is normal, but sometimes they can raise a cause for concern. It is a good idea to do a thorough evaluation of your diet, appetite, and lifestyle and to make adjustments where able or necessary. You should always talk with your doctor if there are bigger concerns.