Nutrition Articles

10 Reasons You Eat When You're Not Actually Hungry

And What You Can Do About It!


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 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

Member Comments

  • 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
  • I could say 'Yes' to almost all of these. Yikes! Thanks for reminding me to value my body enough to LISTEN to it when it's telling me I'm satisfied. I'll especially be careful about the Clean Plate Syndrome. Had that happen too many times! - 9/22/2015 9:55:27 AM
  • SUSIEQ14072
    You can say "no" once at the grogery store and then you don't have to say "no" multiple times once you bring a food home that you have problems with. It's easier that way on your willpower. - 9/17/2015 6:42:52 AM
    *This hint can help a little. *Drink an 8-oz. glass of room temperature water PRIOR to eating a meal. *The water will fill your stomach enough, hopefully, *AND, hopefully, you will NOT eat as much? *Worth a try! - 8/25/2015 5:59:20 PM
  • Not seen, is not eaten, watching TV or reading magazines or internet OR SURFING SPARKSPEOPLE we are exposed to so many food cues via advertising it gets in your subconscious. - 8/23/2015 3:58:02 PM
  • Leptin. I was just researching Leptin and how it affects hunger. WebMD article: http://www.webmd.
    The true culprits are refined sugars and tryglicerides that inhibit our "feeling full" hormones. Interesting article... - 8/23/2015 11:44:49 AM
    The one reason not cited is thirst!!!!

    Thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Feeling "hungry" have a tall glass (10-12 ounces) of water. - 8/23/2015 11:16:20 AM
  • I eat, or nosh, when I'm reading. So I try to keep reading snacks that are actual food that I'm allowed to have, say grapes or Cheerios.

    My way of coping with occasional sweet-stuff cravings is to make mini-cake. There are 4" cake pans designed for children's parties, etc. I'll use a recipe for a "mug cake", make one micro-mini cake in the microwave or the toaster oven, and share it with my husband. I got my 'treat' craving satisfied, but then it's all gone. Unlike making a batch of cupcakes, no more of them are hanging around saying "eat me!" My other trick is to go ahead and make the batch of cupcakes or lemon squares, etc., and take the whole thing to a meeting or a guild party. I get one, and everyone else gets the rest. - 6/30/2015 9:36:16 AM
    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

    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
    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

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