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?
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?