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

  • I find the advice of don't eat just because it's time or onlyeat when you are hungry to be non-starters in my house. The 3 year old is clearly the one in charge of when we all eat. Not cooking just because I am not hungry is just not realistic. The toddler may be hungry because her metabolism is a totally different system then the adults in the house. If I listened only to my body, we would eat an hour later but the tantrums that would result would be a heavy source of stress, and if I wait an hour, I might not be able to sit down and eat until after she goes to bed by which time I would be starving. So I eat earlier than I want, and then find myself hungry at 9pm. I pray she will be able to eat a little later soon but it just doesn't work right now. - 5/9/2016 1:20:56 PM
  • 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

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