Difference Between Being Hungry and Thirsty

Asian woman drinking glass of water
If drinking water satisfies you, you're probably not truly hungry. (Image: Hill Street Studios/Blend Images/Getty Images)

It's actually relatively common for people to confuse thirst for hunger. If you're trying to lose weight, it's important to know the difference between how it feels to be hungry and how it feels to be thirsty. Otherwise, you could be consuming more calories than you need, which makes it harder to achieve your weight loss goals.

Signs of Hunger

The same part of your brain is responsible for interpreting hunger and thirst signals, which can result in mixed signals, according to registered dietitian Sioned Quirke. You should aim to eat every three to four hours -- if it's been less time than this, you might not be truly hungry. Signs of hunger include feeling weak, irritable or moody or your stomach rumbling or feeling empty. True hunger comes on gradually, not suddenly.

Signs of Thirst

By the time you feel thirsty, you may already be slightly dehydrated. Some symptoms you may experience include dry eyes, headache, sluggishness, nausea, dizziness, dry skin and constipation. Your urine may also be a dark yellow, and your mouth may feel dry. Drink water at regular intervals throughout the day, even if you don't feel thirsty, and you'll have less of a chance of becoming dehydrated.

Test It Out

Whenever you think you may be hungry, try drinking a glass of water and waiting 15 minutes. If this satisfies you, you were just thirsty. If you still feel your stomach grumbling, you're probably hungry. If drinking a glass of water or eating a snack doesn't seem to satisfy you, you could be experiencing a craving or emotional hunger, rather than true hunger.

Cravings Versus Hunger

If you're truly hungry, any food will satisfy you, but if you've got a craving, only a specific food or type of food will do. Likewise, a sudden feeling of hunger that comes on even though you've eaten recently is more likely to be a craving than true hunger. Find something else to do, such as talking to a friend or taking a walk, to distract yourself until the craving passes.

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