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How can I tell if I am hungry?

While it seems like there should be a very straightforward answer to this question, it very much depends on the individual and his/her perceptions. While we can assume most people eat because they are hungry (i.e. it's a regular, scheduled mealtime or an exercise session has amped up the appetite or you haven't eaten for several hours), that's not always the case.

If you are an emotional eater, your behavior is triggered by certain events and how you respond to them. Someone says or does something or you experience a situation that signals your body to eat -- even if you are not hungry. You may even question yourself afterwards -- "why did I eat that -- I wasn't even hungry!" Your perception at that moment, however, was that you needed to eat.

Food can also provide comfort in some situations -- if we're nervous, anxious, upset, excited -- we eat! It can almost be an unconscious act but it can happen and often has nothing to do with actually being hungry. Social situations often cause us to overindulge.

One thing to try if you're not sure what's driving the desire to eat is to stop yourself, have a glass of water or other beverage and give yourself a few minutes to see if the impulse passes or if you are still craving food after a short break. If ten minutes pass, and you're still thinking about that food, you're probably hungry!

Awareness is an important component -- getting a handle on what is motivating the eating is important. So if it's not obvious hunger -- run through a quick mental checklist to see if something else may be driving it. Chances are you'll know the answer pretty quickly and it may help you make better choices in the future. Give yourself time to come to this awareness...it can make a big difference!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.