Who hasn’t gone through a time (especially in the summer months), when they were constantly hungry but never seemed to get satiated even after eating a full meal, snacks, etc. I can remember summers where I ate like a horse (had some sips of water throughout the day too!) and it felt like I couldn’t get full! Don’t even get me started on the consequences, a.k.a. “mystery pounds” that just seemed to show up on my stomach, thighs, and butt!
Needless to say, those were some less than happy summers, especially when you factor in me wanting to make sure I had my cuteness factor dialed up to ten, hahaha!
Fast forward to the present and bam! Mystery solved! It’s actually true! In simple terms, your brain can misinterpret thirst for hunger. But first, let’s get a clear definition of both thirst and hunger. In his article entitled “Hunger and Thirst: Issues in the measurement of predictions of eating and drinking”, Richard Dr. Mattes gives the following: “It is first necessary to provide operational definitions of hunger and thirst. Hunger describes those sensations that promote the attainment of minimal energy needs while thirst represents sensations that promote the attainment of minimal hydration needs. ” He also goes on to mention that making the distinction between the two is one that is often made more complex due to a number of factors that feed into the “sensation” of hunger and thirst, namely, individual variability, social behaviors, and physiological attributes, symptoms, etc.
Let’s not even add to that, the constant barrage of media campaigns designed to feed (no pun intedended) and tap into our feelings of nostalgia, comfort and insecurities. These “emotional” wells have psychological impacts are exploited by marketing campaigns for the sole purpose nudging the public into making particular food choices that are, in most instances, very poor nutritional options.
Unfortunately for a significant segment of society, one of the main consequences of this is the neat epidemic level of diabetes, heart disease and other diet related illnesses. Who would have thought that something as simple as making the distinction between thirst and hunger, could have such potentially, far reaching consequences?
I’m not saying that the, ability to make the distinction between hunger and thirst is the primary root cause or a strong enough association, with the occurences of diabetes and other diet related diseases and illnesses, but it does give one food for thought.
My take away from all of this? Before you fill your plate, why not try a glass or two of water and give your brain some time to catch up with your stomach?! The bottom line is that distracted eating is problematic and so is allowing your daily routine to become so busy and out of balance, that something so basic as nutrition and health become the losers in this equation.
Fast food masquerading as “quick” healthy alternatives to mindfully (a.k.a. foods that have no foreign additves, preservatives, etc) prepped are not beneficial to anyone in the long run.
Also, rushing through meals, not properly hydrating the body with water (rather than sodas, and drinks or beverages marketed as good substitutes for clean water), and choosing convenience over substance leads down a path that does not end well. Which brings me back to this whole issue of making the distinction between thirst and hunger; “mindless” or “distracted” eating can translate into, consuming more calories than what the body needs, snacking on empty calorie laden foods, and so forth.
Ultimately, balance is the center of it all. Good health is part and parcel of a healthy lifestyle in which self care (i.e. fitness, exercise, stress management, meditation, mindfully eating, etc ) is viewed as a necessity rather than optional.
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Mattes, Richard D. “Hunger and Thirst: Issues in measurement and prediction of eating and drinking.” Physiology & Behavior 100.1 (2010):22-32. Print
McKiernan F, Hollis JH, McCabe GP, Mattes RD. Thirst-drinking, hunger-eating; tight coupling? J AM Diet Assoc. 2009;109:486-90