Are You Guilty of Eating When Not Hungry

CoachMel Random 7 Comments

We’re designed to find food enjoyable.

This is enhanced by the powerful system which communicates flavor and texture to our brain, and it’s true to say that a full stomach does create a feeling of contentedness.

But, are you guilty of taking this to extremes – eating when you’re really not hungry?

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We have an inbuilt mechanism to help us avoid this: when the body knows that it doesn’t need food, the level of satisfaction gained from eating decreases – this is when we’re supposed to stop eating.

But, many of us have gotten so used to eating when we’re not hungry, that we don’t listen to this signal any more.

There are, in fact, a number of things that cause us to eat when we’re not hungry. These include:

1. Eating for pleasure

Sense is stimulated by the various flavors and scents of food. This is completely natural, however often taken to extremes.

2. Eating due to boredom

This is difficult to fight with, and requires a change in your thinking and attitude.

3. Food is seen as a reward

Try to find other ways to reward yourself, such as a shopping trip, a relaxing bath, watching a movie, etc.

4. Substitute for something else

This includes love, affection, kindness, friendship, etc.

You need to work on gaining self-esteem in ways that don’t require the attention of others.

5. Remedy against stress

Again, try to find alternatives such as exercise, writing in your journal, deep breathing exercises, talking to a friend or partner, etc.

You may be tempted to think that going on a diet will help remedy this pattern of eating when not hungry, but this isn’t the case.

Professor Brian Wansink is an expert in the field of consumer behavior and nutritional science.

According to Wansink a large part of establishing better eating habits involves making small changes in our homes, and to the daily patterns of our lives, rather than going on another diet.

In fact he states,

The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.

How many ‘diets’ have you been on like that? Not many I imagine!

So, what should you do?

1. Control portions

First and foremost portion control is key.

Professor Wansink suggests serving 20 percent less food at mealtimes, and hiding the difference by serving it on smaller plates.

In his research he noted that a person will eat an average of 92% of any food they serve themselves. So, serving less is undoubtedly going to be beneficial.

He also found that moving from a 12-inch to a 10-inch dinner plate leads people to serve and eat 22% less.

Seem like very do-able changes, don’t you agree?

2. Make overeating too much trouble

If overeating continues to be a major problem for you, try to make it more trouble than it’s worth by keeping snacks out of sight, and storing them out of easy reach.

Another good tip is to keep leftover food covered in foil rather than clear plastic wrap, so that you can’t see the contents each time you open the fridge.

These strategies won’t always prevent you getting into the cookie jar, but it will certainly make you pause and think twice about what you’re doing.

If you’re interesting in learning more on this topic, check out Brian Wansink’s book “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.”

What do you think? Are these strategies useful for overcoming eating when not hungry?

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Comments 7

  1. Maria

    Hello Melanie,
    I just discovered your blog and I can’t stop reading it! Anyway, I moved to the UK almost a year ago and I don’t know what happened to me here. I put on 5 kg since I came and I just can’t get rid of them here. I have tried everything I can imagine, I thought it was because I wasn’t hungry when I ate (that’s why I was reading this post) but then I kept a food journal and Im eating around 1200 kcal per day and exercising 5 times a week and the weight just don’t go. Im starting to think if everythings really a matter of portions or theres something else out there. Anyway I love your blog 🙂

  2. John W. Zimmer

    Hi Melanie,

    All of these suggestions sound like good advice. What is now making a difference to me is just realizing that my 52 year-old body cannot eat 22 year-old portions anymore.

    I journaled for a week so I can see what 1500 to 1800 calories looked like and now I am sticking with it.

    I don’t have the luxury of eating a little more and then just working out harder to burn more calories (trust me the extra workouts won’t happen for me).

    Anyway all of your hints will work, and a person just has to decide and do it. Great post!

    John W. Zimmer’s last blog post..Bag Work, Hiking & Mountain Biking in Santee!

  3. Melanie

    Hey Maria,
    I’m glad you like my blog!! If you’d like I could work out the estimated amount of calories you need to see if you’re actually consuming enough food. Sometimes when you restrict yourself too much the weight won’t shift either.

    Contact me privately via the contact form at the top of the page with your age, weight, height and current activity level (ie light, medium, heavy) and I’ll work it out for you.

    Hey John,
    That’s a great tip to keep a food journal to see what your calorie intake actually looked like. As you say, it’s all about the person and they need to decide to do it for themselves!

  4. Kat

    I think the tips are great if you over eat when you are at home. (Which is only half of my problem.) I also tend to overeat while at work (I am a restaurant manager). I have a horrid habit of mindless eating and snacking. If you have any advice for me I would love to hear it!

  5. Melanie

    Hi Kat,
    Thanks for your question – you’ve given me an idea for my next post, I’ll let you know when it’s done. Best wishes!

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