What is the difference between hunger and appetite?

This question is about GLP-1 & Weight Loss

Sarah Achleithner

Understanding the difference between hunger and appetite can help manage your food intake and assist with weight loss. 

Hunger refers to the physiological need for food, and is driven by biological signals such as fluctuations in blood sugar levels, digestive hormones like ghrelin, and the body's energy requirements [


]. When you haven't eaten for a while, your body sends signals to your brain indicating the need for nourishment to maintain energy levels and support bodily functions. Hunger typically manifests as physical sensations such as stomach growling, weakness, or lightheadedness.

Appetite, on the other hand, is the desire to eat, often influenced by psychological and environmental factors rather than physiological need [


]. It can be triggered by factors like the sight or smell of food, emotional states, social cues, or habits. Unlike hunger, appetite is not necessarily linked to energy needs but rather to the enjoyment or pleasure associated with eating. Appetite can lead to eating even when you're not hungry or consuming more food than your body requires.

If you’re looking to lose weight, paying attention to hunger cues can be helpful in determining whether you’re actually hungry or just have an appetite. But before starting on a weight loss journey, talk with your healthcare provider or a Registered Dietitian to determine what methods are right for you.

plate turned into a clock with fork and spoon


  1. Amin, T., & Mercer, J. G. (2016). Hunger and Satiety Mechanisms and Their Potential Exploitation in the Regulation of Food Intake. Current obesity reports, 5(1), 106–112.



  2. Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Appetite definition & meaning. Merriam-Webster.