We have all done it, and sometimes we don’t even realize when it’s happening. We have all eaten something when we weren’t truly hungry; maybe you eat when you’re bored, or reach your hand into the office candy jar each time you pass by and perhaps when you’re feeling sluggish in the afternoon, you head to the vending machine for a pick-me-up.
All of these are opportunities to eat for reasons other than hunger.
Here are seven reasons why you eat when you are not actually hungry:
(i) Emotion: Sometimes, your emotions either speed up your eating rate or slow it down. Happy? You might eat a treat to celebrate. Sad? You might eat to soothe yourself with comfort food. Angry? You might take it out with a fork instead of the person who really caused it.
(ii) Out of Boredom: Sometimes you’re not emotional—you’re just bored. For many people, eating seems like a good solution when there’s nothing better to do.
(iii) Because other people are eating: It is easy to indulge in eating when others around you are eating. It makes you feel like you fit in, and that it’s OK since everyone else is doing it.
(iv) Because the food is there/free (Or cheap): Do you feel powerless to pass up food at a party, even if you’ve already eaten? When food is in plain sight, it can be so easy to grab a handful simply because it’s there. It looks good. You like it. It’s right in front of you. What’s the harm? Any food that is nearby, visible and easily accessible is hard for anyone to turn down.
(v) Because It’s a special occasion: If you work in a big office or have a big family, it can seem like every day is someone’s birthday, anniversary, or shower.
(vi) Because the clock Says So: Breakfast time, lunch time, dinner time…the clock ticks, it is time to eat! Do you pull out your lunchbox when the clock strikes noon, just because it’s time for lunch? Or head to the kitchen at 6 p.m. just because that’s your typical dinnertime?
(vii) Because you can’t say no to food offers: If you’re a people pleaser, it can be hard to say no, especially when friends or family offer you scrumptious food. And sometimes people who push food don’t take no for an answer.
How to get over the ‘eating’ habit:
1. If you know boredom is a trigger for your emotional eating, have a list of strategies in place to keep yourself busy and entertained when you don’t have anything else to do. Catch up with an old friend, volunteer in your community, take up a new hobby or read a book you’ve always wanted to read.
2. Always Check in with your hunger level to see if you really need the ‘food’
3. When you’re already full and food is out at a party, stand with your back to the table or in another room. If you don’t want to have a piece of cake every day, don’t automatically get in the cake line when it’s your bosses’ birthday—you can always show your face at the celebration without taking part in the punch bowl. Remember: Celebrations are about the people, not the food. If you do best without temptation, skip the gathering altogether or bring your own low-cal treat.
4. Don’t just eat when the clock tells you to! When mealtime hits, use it as a cue to check in with your current hunger level. Are you actually hungry? If so, whip up that healthy meal. If not, wait until your body tells you to eat, and ignore the clock.
5. Always check in with your body’s hunger level before you automatically fill your plate with a freebie.
6. Don’t just eat up all ‘food’ because something is free.
7. If you can not say to requests, then have excuses lined up in your bag of tricks—and be honest. “I’m not hungry” works well, as does “I’m trying to lose weight.” If you end up with a piece of cake (or a whole cake to take home!) despite your protests, remember that you’re in control (it’s rare that people will try to force feed you). You can always set the fork down or share the cake with neighbors or co-workers, or simply eat just a small portion.