Do You Ever Mix Up When You're Thristy and When You're Hungry?

I don’t know about you, but a big part of my struggle with food and body stuff stemmed from not being very connected with my actual physical body and what it needed. Sometimes it was mixing up a feeling that I needed to eat when I actually just needed to breathe and let my anxiety (or other strong emotion) calm down, or sometimes it was eating way more than my body actually needed in a given time because I was zoned out. These can be sort of confusing to sort out, but during some of my most difficult times in recovery, I used to get the basic physical needs of hunger and thirst mixed up.

I would always read tips about how you should drink a glass of water before eating, or when you get the urge to eat something, but you aren’t sure if you’re actually hungry, to have something to drink first to figure out what you are really needing. Thing is, I never really listened. Some people are really great at staying hydrated and as many times as I would hear, “Drinking water makes a huge difference in my life,” the habit just didn’t stick with me. I would have the good intention of carrying a water bottle with me and making sure I drank a bunch of it during the day, but I think we all know that follow through on good intentions isn’t always that easy!

As I have gotten more in tune with my body and better at figuring out what it needs (before a binge!), I have noticed that I do have a tendency to mix up what it feels like when I am thirsty and when I am hungry. For a while, I resisted working on this (I don’t really know why), maybe because thirst in my mind was a need that always came way behind hunger. This is sort of silly, because when you think about it, the human body can go without eating for a relatively long time, but water and liquids, not so much! But how could a glass of water really satisfy me the way a salty snack could?! This is where I had to start paying more attention to the subtle signals that my body was giving me and give my thirst the kind of respect it deserved.

I started out by making myself some tea or having some flavored seltzer water when I would get a sudden urge to eat something (the all-of-a-sudden part can also be a good hint that you might not be actually hungry). Instead of looking at it as a way to avoid hunger or eating, it was more of just a check-in like, “Is this what you need right now, body?” Kind of like a weeping baby who can’t talk-you check its diaper, you rub its back, then you try feeding it-it’s a process to figure out what it really needs. I’ve heard that some parents eventually can just tell based on the type of cry what their child needs. It takes the same kind of patience, curiosity and genuine desire to figure out just what is going on to take care of yourself!

In the end, checking in on my thirst levels really makes a huge difference for me (it’s still amazing to me that this is true), even after I was so skeptical of thirst being an important factor in my physical needs and being sane about food. I am now more able to anticipate and differentiate when I am in need of some liquid, making me realize that often I wasn’t actually hungry yet, just thirsty! After some practice, I was able to pick up on the subtle differences that I feel when I am thirsty versus when I am hungry. I am pretty sure I was feeling them all a long, I just wasn’t listening very well!

Have you experienced the hunger vs. thirst debacle? Do you find you are good at distinguishing which is which? Any good strategies if you are? -Morgan

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6 Responses to Do You Ever Mix Up When You're Thristy and When You're Hungry?

  1. *Andrea* says:

    great post! i HATE drinking water. absolutely hate it. the taste is just boring and doesn’t satisfy me as much as a latte or diet soda. however i recently tried adding a squirt of lemon or lime to help drink more water and found that as i adopted this habit i became more hydrated and less likely to binge! you’re definitely right about good intentions not always being easy! preventing a binge or a restrictive thought is so difficult when you’re used to old patterns but in order to change some discomfort definitely has to occur

  2. Astrid says:

    I am one of those people that carries a bottle of water with me everywhere I go. If I stay hydrated, I don’t need to worry about mixing up thirst and hunger signals! For me, it has been about learning my body’s signals. I know about how long certain foods/meals will keep me full for. So if I am hungry far before then, know something else is up (most of the time). Sometimes it really is about making yourself a nice cup of tea, going for a calming walk, or simply breathing.

  3. I have thrown out the idea that I NEED to drink 8 glasses of water a day. Someone somewhere decided that was the fact and we all go along believing it like its written in stone.

    I have come to believe in intuitive eating and going along with that is intuitive. Just like i believe we should eat when we are hungry, we should drink when we are thirsty, not worrying about finishing the water bottle or counting cups.

    That being said, inutitive eating and drinking requires attention…especially when you have been not paying attention for so long (like me!). And it is REALLY easy to confuse hunger with thirst. Thanks for the post….i actually needed the reminder.

    Oh an on hydration….since i started eating lots of whole foods, fruits and veggies I notice thirst is less. Makes sence. When i are all processed crap and refined carbs all the time…i needed to drink much more!!

  4. oksks says:

    oh wow..
    thank you so-so-SO much for this post. you’ve pointed out very well, what i was doing wrong - now that i think of it, i can probably identify very clearly, whether i’m thirsty or hungry, but i just choose/decide to ignore the thirst and unconsciously make the decision to translate the feeling into hunger, probably using thirst as a justification to eat - “see, body, i’m looking for something to munch on, ‘means i’m hungry and thus am allowed to have the food”.

    now, how to avoid that next time.. you probably know best, that with a food addiction, in moments like these, your rational self is suppressed by the desire to binge. so when i discover myself in a pre-binge state of mind, where i need to choose between food and water, i’ll just go for food since water is tasteless and doesn’t sound desirable.. - tasty, or crunchy, or chewy, or salty, or sweet.

    but, again, thank you. i’ll try to be mindful and aware of what’s going on, to foresee & overcome the insanity the next time.

  5. Sunny says:

    Also, this is the cutest picture ever, Morgan. :)

  6. […] Do You Ever Mix Up When You’re Thirsty and When You’re Hungry? [Healthy Girl] […]

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