We’ve all experienced hunger in some form or another. Sometimes it strikes you quickly and other times it builds up over the course of a few hours. However, your body often likes to make you believe you are hungry, when you’re not. How are you supposed to know when you’re really hungry or when your body is playing a trick on you? When you are truly hungry it’s a sign that your body needs fuel to continue to work for you. Without hunger, you are simply eating food in excess; food your body doesn’t need yet. Here are a few tips to help you determine whether or not your body desires fuel or food:Hunger Builds SlowlyTrue hunger doesn’t strike you suddenly. Hunger should build up over the course of an hour or so. A slow build up to hunger is a good indication that your body desires food as fuel. Specificity is CriticalAre you hungry for something specific? If you’re hanging out in front of the open refrigerator door or pantry because you cannot decide what you want, you probably aren’t hungry. Taking the extra time to decide means that you’re body doesn’t necessarily desire food right at that moment, and it’s most likely your mind telling you that you’re hungry. Hunger vs. ThirstDrink some water. Hunger and thirst go hand in hand. If you haven’t had enough water your body might be confused between its desire for food and water. Drink water first, and see if the feeling of hunger subsides. Water should not be replaced with sugary drinks or juices. The body is primarily made up of water and needs to be replenished. Sweetened beverages like concentrated juices and pop can contribute to feelings of hunger because they aren’t fully replacing the water that your body craves. Eat MindfullyEat with intention! Why are you eating? What are you eating? Eat foods that will benefit your body and mind. Don’t rush the eating process. Food should be consumed slowly and completely until a feeling of satisfaction occurs. Feelings of “fullness” or being “stuffed” aren’t what you should aim for. Eating until satisfied should not leave you uncomfortable or wanting additional snacks shortly after your meal. Ask Yourself...and Be HonestAsk yourself: “Am I really hungry?” Think about it in relation to what you are doing in that present moment. Are you are bored? Tired? Are you doing something monotonous? In these instances you are more likely to feel a desire to snack to distract your mind and body from the feelings of boredom, fatigue, or need for distraction. Eliminate Secondary Reinforcers Everyone has a food trigger. Sometimes a memory, experience or smell will cause you to crave something. However, cravings and hunger are two different things. A craving is a desire to eat something, whereas hunger is your body telling you to refuel. Sitting to watch a movie is automatically associated with drinking pop and eating popcorn. We’re not saying you can’t enjoy a movie, but try to replace your craving for that buttery movie theatre popcorn with something healthy like sliced veggies. If all else fails your body will verbalize it’s hunger! The growling and grumbling that your stomach makes is real indication that you’re hungry. Listen to your body and what it has to say.