I’m not hungry, so why I am still eating?

So, I realize that I promised a recipe for healthy ice cream this week and I tried to deliver on that promise but I had a bit of an ice cream recipe fail so I will have to try again another time.

In the meantime, I was thinking today about all those times when I’m not actually hungry, but I still eat. Are you familiar with that? It’s that old phenomenon where you just finished breakfast but you eat an extra piece of toast or you just finished dinner but you feel compelled to order dessert. How can we overcome that desire to continue eating and why, if we are truly full, do we feel the need for more food?

For so many of us, food and eating is comforting. We do it when we’re sad, we do it to celebrate, we do it when we’re bored, we do it when we’re stressed. It becomes the center of all our activities. It’s mindless and sometimes it makes us even feel better when we’ve had a rough day. That feeling only lasts a minute or two though and then we often get feelings of guilt for what we have just eaten. And then, we feel worse than we did before we even started. When we were going through our adoption trials and tribulations, I would indulge in all my cravings. I would eat a cupcake thinking it would make me feel better and, when it didn’t, I would eat another cupcake for good measure just in case the answer to my problem was more cupcakes (just as an aside, the answer is never more cupcakes). So how can we stop this endless cycle? The answer, I think, is simple.


If you have finished a meal and you feel the desire to eat something else or you find yourself reaching for more food, take a minute and ask yourself this question: “Am I still hungry?” If the answer is yes, drink a glass of water and then reassess or have some veggies or an apple. It strikes me that being mindful of the reasons we want to eat and the feelings that lead to overeating can help us stop the action. If the answer is no, stop and think about the reason you think you want to eat.Are you bored? Are you stressed? Are you sad about something? And then answer this question, “Will eating this ________ make me feel better?” Guess what, the answer is almost always no. Then, simply remove yourself from the food. Go take a walk, read a book, take a bath, do your workout. Do anything to take your mind off the food you think you want to eat. Chances are, in an hour, you won’t be thinking about it anymore.

I think this is the reason so many of us snack at night. For me, it’s my “me time”. The kids are in bed, I can finally sit down for a minute and do something for myself and so I want a snack. During those times when you know you are prone to overeat or stray from your meal plan, try to plan for another activity or plan to have a snack but make it one that fits in your eating plan.

I realize this sounds simplistic and I certainly haven’t mastered this technique but it’s something I continue to try to do because I know that the battle is really a mental one.


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