Whether you live to eat or eat to live, we all have the desire to eat. It is called appetite. The relationship we have with food is often quite complicated and relies on numerous factors, such as availability, cost and sometimes peer pressure.
As a part of appetite, hunger is our body’s natural way of telling us that we need to eat, giving us a desire for food. However, we do not always listen to our bodies natural signals and often skip meals despite being hungry or eating when we don’t feel hungry at all. Food research has shown that outside factors such as sound, smell and advertising provide multiple food cues that lead us to overconsume food.
Appetite is a complex thing in that it does not remain stable throughout our lives. As we age, our appetite tends to decrease. There are seven different phases of appetite and eating behaviors:
Phase 1: Age 0-10 years
With the body going through rapid growth, dietary habits and behavior start to become ingrained, which extend into adulthood. This is when children start to learn about portion control. If children are forced to eat everything on their plate, it can influence how they rely on their appetite to determine if they are still hungry before finishing a plateful.
Phase 2: Age 10-20
As a teenager, appetite is often driven by hormones and will affect their eating habits for the rest of their life. Dietary decisions made during this phase of life has a direct link to individuals future health. Without proper guidance, teenagers are prone to adopt poor eating habits that can cause unhealthy consequences later in life.
Phase 3: Age 20-30
During this phase lifestyle changes such as moving out of the home, going to college, living with a partner or getting married and becoming a parent can lead to weight gain. This is due to the body sending very strong appetite signals when energy consumption is low, while signals to prevent overeating become weaker.
Phase 4: Age 30-40
At this point, appetite is affected by stress from working life. Up to 80% of the population are affected by either lack of appetite or over-eating due to stress. The work environment may also affect appetite.
Phase 5: Age 40-50
During this period, many people begin to see consequences of earlier eating habits, such as increased cholesterol and elevated blood pressure. Many people are forced to change their eating habits due to health concerns at this age. Appetite is greatly affected as diet changes are implemented.
Phase 6: Age 50-60
From this age, we generally begin to start losing muscle mass as a result of eating too little protein, reduced physical activity, and menopause in women. An increase in protein-rich foods and regular physical exercise will help combats the effects of reduced appetite.
Phase 7: Age 60 and over
Old age brings with it a lack of hunger and a generally poor appetite. This leads to frailty and unintentional weight loss in many people. This lack of eating can be due to eating alone, dental and swallowing problems, lack of smell or taste resulting in eating no longer being a pleasurable activity.