Nutrition Articles

10 Reasons You Eat When You're Not Actually Hungry

And What You Can Do About It!

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By Erin Whitehead, Health and Fitness Writer         
Page 1 of 3
We've all done it, and sometimes we don't even realize when it's happening. Maybe you graze when you're bored, or reach your hand into the office candy jar each time you pass by. 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. No matter why food calls your name, one thing rings true: We have all eaten something when we weren't truly hungry. While that's OK from time to time, too much eating without thinking can really hurt your weight management goals. And depending on what you eat, hurt your health, too.

Take a look at these 10 situations that encourage you to eat when you're not hungry, plus tips to cope in a healthier way.

To Cope
Emotions are a common eating trigger. 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. But if you turn to food for emotional reasons, you won't resolve the underlying issues. It may help to track your eating habits in a journal, noting your emotional state when you headed for that snack. Writing it down may help you make a connection you hadn't seen before, like the fact that you eat when you're lonely or angry. Then you'll know for the future to look for a different outlet, such as calling a friend when you're lonely or turning to that punching bag when you're mad or stressed. If emotional eating is a known problem for you, check out SparkPeople's 10-step guide to overcoming emotional eating.

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; whether you graze at home on the weekends or entertain yourself with lavish dinners out. But eating can only last for so long—and then you have an afternoon to fill! 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, write an old-fashioned snail-mail letter, write in your journal or blog, volunteer in your community, take up a new hobby or read a book you've always wanted to read. Better yet, make your boredom-buster an active endeavor, such as trying a new class at the gym, playing an active video game, going for a walk with the dog or flying a kite. Eating won't sound as appealing if you have a fun alternative to occupy your mind and your body!
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About The Author

Erin Whitehead Erin Whitehead
is a health and fitness enthusiast who co-founded the popular website FitBottomedGirls.com and co-wrote The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (available May 2014). Now busier than ever with two kids, she writes about healthy pregnancy and parenting at FitBottomedMamas.com.

Member Comments

  • Okay, there is a comment here that makes no sense. Why in the world would someone who has "never been overweight", exercises regularly and is seemingly healthy be commenting on a Sparkpeople message board?
    Sounds like a troll to me. How about we just honestly support each other with ideas that work for us and stop trying to be smarter than the room. - 4/14/2016 9:11:37 PM
  • My experience with Food Pushers. I usually just say, "I will eat it later" or "Not now". Some pushers get really offended and hurt if you refuse so I take it, thank them then throw it away in private.

    Years ago I was offered a beer at a bar as I was delivering linen. So I just took it and poured it out in the alley. I couldn't do my job or drive if I were drinking. But the pushers don't think of that. - 4/14/2016 12:38:57 PM
  • ETHELMERZ
    We eat when not hungry because it tastes better than any diet food!! That's the real reason! Trust me.... - 4/14/2016 10:24:05 AM
  • Also, sometimes I've released I eat when I'm thirsty. I know that sounds odd, but reaching for water first has helped me lost weight. I realize my body needs something, and I automatically reach for food. More water!! - 4/14/2016 8:22:59 AM
  • Terrific article, lucidly put. Thanks. I've pinned it to refer to in future. - 4/9/2016 12:53:04 AM
  • Good article, I need to re-read it often. - 3/29/2016 11:00:59 AM
  • I also learned some hunger pangs are actual thirst. That wasn't listed. Sometimes drink some water or other calorie free drink (8 oz, not a sip) wait 5 minutes and if your still hungry, your hungry. - 1/23/2016 3:23:54 PM
  • I eat to prevent low blood sugar which is rather scary. When I go out I usually take a high protein snack for emergencies. - 12/16/2015 7:19:03 PM
  • BUDBUDDHA
    Unfortunately, I eat many times when I'm not hungry because many foods are delicious and I like to eat. Most people stop eating when they are full, but I love the taste and don't want to stop. For me, it's a battle. - 12/8/2015 10:12:45 PM
  • This article doesn't consider things like work/school schedules. I don't get to just eat when I'm hungry - I have to adhere to a specific schedule. I go to school full time and work part time. If I don't eat when I have a break (regardless of whether or not I'm hungry at the time), I don't get to eat again until I get home and that's going far too long without eating and causes meals to be skipped. - 12/8/2015 9:55:06 AM
  • ETHELMERZ
    After awhile, a lot of these comments are baloney, people won't stick to what they say here because it's boring and tastes awful....truth!! - 12/8/2015 4:23:47 AM
  • I would say don't get off wheat, sugar, meat, dairy (unless you are allergic) but practice awareness and moderation. I can not imagine my life without freshly baked bread with butter or a cup of yogurt. I have never been overweight in my life, and never will be, because the first thing in the morning I do is yoga, then run, then shower and then eat breakfast. I don't count steps I took each day or miles I walked, I ENJOY being outdoors and moving. That is a great way to stop yourself from overeating. - 12/8/2015 2:21:30 AM
  • The main reason people eat when they are not really hungry is because they are filling themselves with "healthy" whole grains, specifically wheat, which has addictive opiate-like properties. The more you eat, the more you want. Get off the wheat and use lots of healthy fats and you won't eata unless you are truly hungry. - 11/6/2015 11:10:01 AM
  • very good informative ofal. - 10/3/2015 1:28:51 PM
  • "Most of us have grew up hearing" on page 3 should be "Most of us have grown up hearing . . ." - 9/26/2015 7:07:29 AM

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