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Are you hungry, thirsty or just bored?

SHARE Are you hungry, thirsty or just bored?

Have you ever said these words, "I'm hungry!"?

I'm going to bet 100 percent of us have uttered those words, and probably most of us said it today! The deal is, though — are you really?

How do you know when you're truly hungry?

That's an excellent question, because so many of us really don't know. We don't understand the difference between hunger, thirst and sometimes, recreational eating for the sake of eating. Why is this?

I believe there are a whole bunch of reasons, and strangely enough, most of which we're not 100 percent aware of! A lot of us cannot read our bodies' internal signals. We confuse hunger with thirst. We're not drinking enough water, and consequently, we mistake thirst for hunger. So a good self-check before you head for the fridge is to gauge how much water you've drunk so far that day. How much do you need? More than you think! And no, not all liquid counts as hydration. Some beverages like tea and coffee dehydrate. Personally, I drink a minimum of four 24-ounce bottles of water a day. I work out and run; I drink coffee, so I need that much water. On a particularly hot day, I will drink more.

Is that amount of water appropriate for you? Not necessarily. I could be taller, weigh more, move more, sweat more and therefore, have more need for 96 ounces of water a day than you. The deal is getting in touch with your own inner signals to figure it all out. A good test to find out whether or not it's hunger or thirst is to drink an 8-ounce glass of water at the first sign of hunger, then wait 15 minutes (remember, we can do ANYTHING for 15 minutes, include waiting to eat!). If you're truly hungry, that hungry feeling won't go away, and by all means, it's time to eat. If you weren't hungry, you'll be just fine and a little more hydrated.

If you're eating out of boredom, you know the cure already. Keep track of what and when you're eating. Keep a food journal (this includes everything, even water) before proceeding to the next level (eating). If you're dealing with boredom, make a list of things to do other than eat and do one of them. If you're hungry, find something healthy to nosh on and enjoy it. Snacking is actually encouraged in our book, "Body Clutter." It's the grazing aspect of eating that we discourage! We're human beings with one stomach, not cows with several.

The holidays are coming, and this is a time where people traditionally put on weight. We all get hungry, but sometimes we're just thirsty or bored! Get in touch with what real hunger is and get to know the difference.

Leanne Ely, a k a Dinner Diva, is the author of the best-selling "Saving Dinner" and "Saving Dinner the Low Carb Way" (Ballantine). What's for dinner? Go to www.savingdinner.com and find the solution!