If we do this we eat only to supply the demands of the body. We cannot
repeat too often the admonition, do not eat if not hungry.
If this plan were followed the present three meals-a-day plan would end.
Also the practice of many of eating between meals and in the evening
before retiring would cease. For most people real hunger would call for
about one meal a day, with occasionally some small amounts of fruit during
Hunger is the "voice of nature" saying to us that food is required. There is
no other true guide as to when to eat. The time of day, the habitual meal
time, etc., are not true guides.
Although genuine hunger is a mouth and throat sensation and depends
upon an actual physiological need for food, muscular contractions of the
stomach accompany hunger and are thought by physiologists, to give rise
to the hunger sensation.
Carlson, of the Chicago University, found that in a man who had been
fasting two weeks, these gastric "hunger" contractions had not decreased,
although there was no desire for food. The same has been observed in
animals. Indeed these contractions are seen to increase and yet they do
not produce the sensation of hunger. I do not consider these so-called
"hunger-contractions" as the cause of hunger. Real hunger is a mouth and
But there is a difference between hunger and what is called appetite.
Appetite is a counterfeit hunger, a creature of habit and cultivation, and
may be due to any one of a number of things; such as the arrival of the
habitual meal time, the sight, taste, or smell of food, condiments and
seasonings, or even the thought of food. In some diseased states there is
an almost constant and insatiable appetite. None of these things can
arouse true hunger; for, this comes only when there is an actual need for
One may have an appetite for tobacco, coffee, tea, opium, alcohol, etc., but
he can never be hungry for these, since they serve no real physiological
Appetite is often accompanied by a gnawing or "all gone" sensation in the
stomach, or a general sense of weakness; there may even be mental
depression. Such symptoms usually belong to the diseased stomach of a
glutton and will pass away if their owner will refrain from eating for a few
days. They are temporarily relieved by eating and this leads to the idea that
it was food that was needed. But such sensations and feelings do not
accompany true hunger. In true hunger one is not aware that he has a
stomach for this, like thirst, is a mouth and throat sensation. Real hunger
arises spontaneously, that is without the agency of some external factor,
and is accompanied by a "watering of the mouth" and usually by a
conscious desire for some particular food.
Dr. Gibson says that, "The condition known as appetite, … with its source
and center in nervous desire, and its motive in self-indulgence, is a mere
parasite on life, feeding on its host--the man himself--whose misdirected
imagination invites it into his own vital household; while hunger, on the
other hand, is the original, constitutional prompter for the cell-world calling
for means to supply the true need and necessities of man's physical nature.
… Appetite does not express our needs, but our wants; not what we really
need, but what we think we need. It is imagination running riot, fashioning
out of our gluttonous greed an insatiable vampire which grows with our
wants, and increases its power until finally it kills us unless we determine to
kill it. … As long as our attention is absorbed in the pleasures of the table,
in the gratification of eating for its own sake, and in the introduction of new
combinations to bring about stimulating effects, we are increasing the
power of our appetite at the expense of our hunger."
The hungry person is able to eat and relish a crust of dry bread; he who
has only an appetite must have his food seasoned and spiced before he
can enjoy it. Even a gourmand is able to enjoy a hearty meal if there is
sufficient seasoning to whip up his jaded appetite and arouse his palsied
taste. He would be far better off if he would await the arrival of hunger
There is no doubt of the truth of Dr. Geo. S. Weger's thought that "appetite
contractions in the stomach are often excited by psychic states, as
influenced by the senses." Appetite contractions thus aroused, are of
distinct advantage in digesting a meal if they are super-added to preexisting
hunger contractions. We know that these psychic states increase
the flow of the digestive juices--make the stomach "water" as well as the
mouth--and enhance digestion.
Dr. Claunch says, "the difference between true hunger and false craving
may be determined as follows: when hungry and comfortable it is true
hunger. When hungry and uncomfortable it is false craving. When a sick
person misses a customary meal, he gets weak before he gets hungry.
When a healthy person misses a customary meal, he gets hungry before
he gets weak."
If we follow the rule to eat only when truly hungry, those people who are
"hungry" but weak and uncomfortable would fast until comfort and strength
returned. Fasting would become one of the most common practices in our
lives, at least, until we learn to live and eat to keep well and thus eliminate
the need for fasting.
There are individuals who are always eating and always "hungry." They
mistake a morbid irritation of the stomach for hunger. These people have
not learned to distinguish between a normal demand for food and a
symptom of disease. They mistake the evidences of chronic gastritis or of
gastric neurosis for hunger.
Hunger, as previously pointed out, is the insistent demand for food that
arises out of physiological need for nourishment. Appetite, on the other
hand, is a craving for food which may be the result of several different
outside factors operating through the mind and senses. Anything that will
arouse an appetite will encourage one to eat, whether or not there exists an
actual need for food.
Hunger may be satisfied and appetite still persist, a not unusual thing. Our
many course dinners, with everything especially prepared to appeal to the
taste and smell, are well designed to keep alive appetite, long after hunger
has been appeased. No man is ever hungry when he reaches the dessert,
so commonly served after a many course dinner. Few, though filled to
repletion and perhaps uncomfortable in the abdomen, ever refuse to eat
the dessert. It is especially prepared to appeal to appetite. This style of
eating necessarily and inevitably leads to overeating and disease. Too
many articles of food at a meal overstimulate and induce overeating.
Hunger and the sense of taste are the only guides as to the quantity and
character of food required. If we eat when we are not hungry, and if the
delicate sensibilities of taste have been dulled and deadened by gluttonous
indulgence and by condiments, spices, alcohol, etc., it ceases to be a
The unperverted instinct of hunger craves most keenly the food that is most
needed by the body and the unperverted taste derives the most pleasure
and satisfaction out of the food or foods demanded, and will be satisfied
when we have consumed sufficient of such food or foods to supply the
body's needs. But, if we have been in the habit of crowding the stomach
when there is no demand for food, just because it is meal time, or because
the doctor ordered it, and we know no other indication that enough food
has been consumed, than that the stomach can hold no more, we are
headed for disaster. The existence of a natural demand for food indicates
that food is required by the body and that the organs of the body are ready
to receive and digest it. Eating when there is no time, or as a social duty, or
because one has been able to stimulate an appetite, is a wrong to the
body. Both the quality and quantity, and the frequency of meals should be
regulated by the rules of hygiene rather than by those of etiquette and