Nutrition Articles

10 Reasons You Eat When You're Not Actually Hungry

And What You Can Do About It!

9.3KSHARES
By Erin Whitehead, Health and Fitness Writer         
Page 3 of 3

Because You're Tired
The dreaded afternoon energy lull can drive even the most disciplined of us to food—especially sugary treats. But that sugar rush might be followed by an even worse crash. Instead, take a walk around the office, head outside for some rejuvenating natural light, or drink a cup of coffee or a tall glass of cold water. A change of scenery might be just the ticket to battle the afternoon lull.

Because the Clock Says So
Do you pull out your lunchbox when the clock strikes noon, just because it's time for lunch? Or head to the kitchen at 6 p.m. just because that's your typical dinnertime? Don't just eat when the clock tells you to! When mealtime hits, use it as a cue to check in with your current hunger level. Are you actually hungry? If so, whip up that healthy meal. If not, wait until your body tells you to eat, and ignore the clock.

Because It's Free (Or Cheap)
Everyone loves to get a good deal. But don't eat up just because something is free (think free samples at the grocery store) or super cheap (buy-one-get-one-free sodas or all-you-can-eat buffets). Always check in with your body's hunger level before you automatically fill your plate with a freebie.

Because You Can't Say No to Food Pushers
If you're a people pleaser, it can be hard to say no, especially when friends or family offer you scrumptious food. And sometimes people who push food don't take no for an answer. Have excuses lined up in your bag of tricks—and be honest. "I'm not hungry" works well, as does "I'm trying to lose weight." If you end up with a piece of cake (or a whole cake to take home!) despite your protests, remember that you're in control (it's rare that people will try to force feed you). You can always set the fork down or share the cake with neighbors or co-workers, or simply eat just a small portion.

Because You Suffer from Clean Plate Syndrome
Most of us have grown up hearing, "There are starving kids who would love to eat that" to get us to clean our plates as kids. And for many of us, the well-meaning notion to prevent kids from wasting food and encourage them to eat their broccoli has stayed with us into adulthood. Do you still feel obligated to clean your plate, even when you're not hungry enough to comfortably finish it all—especially at a restaurant where you're paying a premium for a meal? Fortunately, most of us live with modern amenities like refrigerators and microwaves that make stowing away almost any meal for another time easy. (See, no waste necessary!) To prevent overeating, take stock throughout your meal to gauge how hungry you are; you might find that you don't need those last few bites after all. If that doesn't work, use smaller plates at home to eat less! And lastly, get over your fear of leftovers. I've met countless people who say they simply don't eat them. Why not? Many foods taste better the next day or two, and most things can be refrigerated and eaten without sacrificing flavor or texture.


If you eat for reasons other than being hungry, check in with yourself. Knowing what true hunger feels like can help you recognize when you're eating for other reasons. If you can't avoid the specific triggers that cause you to eat when you're not hungry—and there's no way to avoid them all—knowing these strategies will help!
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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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