Nutrition Articles

10 Reasons You Eat When You're Not Actually Hungry

And What You Can Do About It!

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Because Other People Are Eating
When you're out enjoying a dinner with family or friends, it can be easy to eat when you're past the point of fullness—especially if you're enamored in conversation and not paying attention to your satiation level. Perhaps more common, it's easy to indulge when others around you are eating, too. It makes you feel like you fit in, and that it's OK since everyone else is doing it. Research shows that our habits mimic our companions' actions in situations like these. You don't have to swear off happy hour with friends to watch your weight though. When your dining companions devour a second basket of bread or chips, or order dessert, don't automatically follow suit. Check in with your hunger level to see if you really need it or if you'll be more satisfied with the fun conversation. If you have trouble stopping yourself from reaching for more, use some of these dining out tactics to stay in control.

Because Food is There
Have a candy jar at the office that calls your name? Do you feel powerless to pass up food at a party, even if you've already eaten? When food is in plain sight, it can be so easy to grab a handful simply because it's there. It looks good. You like it. It's right in front of you. What's the harm? Any food that is nearby, visible and easily accessible is hard for anyone to turn down. If you're unable to nix the trigger food altogether, move the treats out of sight—you'll be less likely to grab a handful. So if you buy a bag of Oreos, put them on a high shelf in a cabinet—not on the counter. Instead of a clear candy jar, try an opaque one or move it to another location. (Alternatively, stock the candy jar with a healthier, more filling treat—like nuts or trail mix.) When you're already full and food is out at a party, stand with your back to the table or in another room. The flipside of this works, too. When you keep lots of other healthy foods in sight, like a bowl of fruit on the table, you're more likely to eat them.

Because It's a Special Occasion
If you work in a big office or have a big family, it can seem like every day is someone's birthday, anniversary, or shower. And if those celebrations often involve cake or alcohol, it might seem that every party is a calorie-laden minefield. If you don't want to have a piece of cake every day, don't automatically get in the cake line when it's your bosses' birthday—you can always show your face at the celebration without taking part in the punch bowl. Remember: Celebrations are about the people, not the food. If you do best without temptation, skip the gathering altogether or bring your own low-cal treat. Here's another tactic: New research shows that just imagining yourself eating a treat can decrease your desire to eat the real thing. Passing up cake or celebratory food on occasion just got easier!
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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

  • ETHELMERZ
    I'm "responsible", but also human, easier to scold during those times when you do it, but it doesn't last forever! Look at statistics. The "thrill is gone", and then we have to struggle to get that feeling that boring salads are good again. - 5/17/2015 8:13:47 AM
  • TOWERS2000
    ARE YOU RESPONSIBLE?

    If the food isn't there you can't eat it. Don't let "stuff" into your house to tempt you in the first place. I clean my house (sometimes too much , but that another story) to get rid of germs & surface dirt for health reasons. Clean out your fridge. Clean up your shopping list.

    I reconsider what I put into my shopping cart just before checking out. Consider removing ALL items that are self-destructive. Remember, if it isn't there you can't eat it.

    It is written "Drink Responsibly" so consider "Shop Responsibly" - 5/17/2015 4:05:55 AM
  • I just love to eat! I love the taste of food. Lately I have been making HUGE salads with spinach, celery, radish, cucumbers, onions, etc. It really fills me up and does not have a lot of calories. I'm learning not to want the bagels, breads, pasta, and found that I can eat within reason, but it's still tough sometimes.... - 5/16/2015 6:04:41 PM
  • Oh boy am I ever a boredom eater!?!?! That has probably been the hardest habit to break!! - 5/16/2015 5:09:59 PM
  • ETHELMERZ
    But, I DO feel better after eating something, same as any druggee, so, that's why even knowing the reasons and triggers, we over eaters still do it, statistics don't lie. Start a diet, stop a diet, over and over. Healthy food does not satisfy as well is the reason, no satisfaction factor! Some expert needs to admit this!! - 5/16/2015 8:24:38 AM
  • It is very important to realize all the triggers, or hot buttons, that get pushed for us to respond by eating when it really is not wise. No one can eating anything in whatever amount at anytime and survive.

    If we know ourselves well enough, we learn to use the times our button(s) get pushed and we can intentionally do something else. Including drinking some water. Many people confuse thirst for hunger.

    Know thyself, is not just good advice. It's a treat! Why? Because you are actually an interesting person to know. Did you consider that?

    Peace! Out... - 5/3/2015 10:40:33 PM
  • The article covers the usual reasons most people eat when not hungry but fails to address eating disorders. People with BED and Bulimia get overwhelming feelings of hunger and compulsions to eat which are NOT always linked to any of the reasons listed. Your brain may be sending out the faulty messages, and it may have nothing to do with environmental or emotional factors. - 9/28/2014 10:51:28 AM
  • Great article- I do every one of those things! Very good reminder why the extra calories add up...and up. The strongest one for me is because food is just there. - 9/26/2014 4:48:50 PM
  • I wonder if imagining having eaten something really registers as having eaten. I assume this only works when not hungry. Sometimes I think about past things I have eaten and ask if I had long term satisfaction. If the answer is no then I ask why a bag of chips will be more satisfying this time. - 9/25/2014 8:51:56 AM
  • I have a big problem with the "in plain sight" topic, I don't buy the crap, I can say no at the store, but unfortunately I am staying with my parents and they buy the stuff, and even if it is put away, it still calls to me O_O - 8/7/2014 11:32:01 AM
  • Biggest trick of all: Get your mind OFF the food. Now. Do whatever it takes. Don't fight it. Look away instantly and get away from it if possible. Tell yourself that you'll go ahead and indulge if you still want it in 15 minutes. In 15 minutes you'll either have beaten it or you'll indulge in a smaller amount.

    I'd sure like to see that research about imagining eating it helping avoid it. That sounds like pure horse hockey to me. Personally I know of NO better way to ensure I'll give in to any temptation than by imagining I'm giving in. That's stupid. - 7/30/2014 12:12:38 AM
  • I need to memorize every word of this! - 7/21/2014 7:34:06 AM
  • NSHEATHER
    I find that I eat when I am in fact thirsty. I like the idea of keeping a journal to judge the triggers. Hats off to those Spark followers who have never had a problem. I envy you! You don't realize how fortunate you are to not struggle with over eating or grazing. - 5/26/2014 8:33:02 PM
  • Excellent article. As it should be though, a short article is not going to explore in any depth certain things… like lack of sleep under the tired category. “Lack of sleep, tend to eat”. It’s Allergy season and that means I have trouble sleeping. Toward the end of the day, I am hungry, irritable, groggy… and I eat what’s there. I have not found a decent solution for getting my sleep during allergy season… tried many things, but always, the same issues keep me awake. Got to get my sleep!

    - 5/26/2014 12:03:00 PM
  • ELAINEINTOKYO
    I suggest reading Fat Chance by Lustig. You may indeed eat for all these reasons, but you may have out of whack hormones. You may be Leptin resistant, which keeps you from feeling sated and it is not rare. I often don't understand why I eat sometimes in the same situation. I have never believed I only eat for emotional reasons or because it's there. But if it's there I will sometimes eat it. It may be time to take control, but you may not be in control for reasons that many in the diet industry don't want you to understand. we still live in a blame the victim society when it comes to weight - 5/26/2014 7:45:35 AM

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