Eating when we are not hungry is something I’m sure we have all experienced at one time or another. There are many reasons why we eat including covering up uncomfortable feelings, boredom, depression, anxiety, loneliness and stress. When we are under stress we tend to reach for “comfort foods” and unfortunately, those foods seem to always be high in sugar, fat and calories. When my mother and I had an argument we nearly always made up by consuming a box of chocolates between the two of us. I’m sure that most of you have stories where food has been used for reasons other than hunger. An important part of weight management is recognizing the difference between needing to eat and the desire to eat. There are skills and strategies that we can apply so that we can recognize the difference. For example……………..
- Track your eating triggers. At CMH we really stress journaling so that you can track your emotions and situations as they relate to your eating. After a while you will be able to notice when you are most vulnerable to eating for reasons other than hunger. Recognizing reasons for trigger eating is an important first step to becoming aware of unnecessary eating. For example, watching TV can become a high risk eating situation for many of us. We find ourselves eating mindlessly and end up consuming many more calories than we ever anticipated. Research shows that people who eat in front of the TV report feeling like they haven’t eaten at all.
- Learn to ask yourself a few questions when you feel the urge to eat. Ask yourself if you are really physically hungry. Will the food you are about to eat, nourish your body? How will you feel once you have eaten it? By asking yourself these questions you are better able to control your behavior. If I am craving a certain food before I go to bed, I promise myself that I can have that food for breakfast the next morning. Chances are I won’t feel like it the next day.
- What you eat is also important. Most of you have heard the expression, “You are what you eat”, so eat well to promote both mental and physical health. Good food choices can affect a brain chemical called serotonin and it is the serotonin that influences our mood.
- We need to be aware of high risk situations and have a plan for dealing with them. Parties, celebrations and stressful work conditions can all lead to eating when you are not hungry.
- Finally, try to find some alternative behaviors to eating such as taking a walk, washing the car, taking a bubble bath and how many of you can eat whilst painting your nails? Find something that works for you and takes your mind off food.