The Four-Letter Word That Can End Mindless Eating Forever

By , SparkPeople Blogger
by Marissa Beck, M.S., R.D.

Imagine this. You’re home after a grueling day at work. You kick off your shoes and drop your bags. Without hesitation, you walk into the kitchen and swing open the ‘fridge like Tarzan on a vine… Last night’s leftovers taste great. You should be enjoying yourself—maybe sit down and use a fork—but instead, you’re hunched over the counter dipping cold chicken into congealed rice, smacking your lips with every bite. Before you know it, you’ve already dug into the Halloween stash. Too bad those skittles were for the kids…

Mindless, robotic, munching—it happens to the best of us. You know what you should do, but sometimes you don’t listen to yourself. Luckily, there are some techniques that have been shown to curtail mindless eating before it gets scarier than the grisly trick-or-treaters.

HALT before the first bite

Stop yourself by say the word, “HALT!” Halt is an acronym that will help discover the reasons why you might be turning toward food. Halt stands for the following:

H = Hungry

Before biting into the food, ask yourself: “Am I really hungry?” It may be that you haven’t had food in over five hours and are feeling ravenous because your body needs the calories. On the other hand, reaching for food if you are not physically hungry means that you are about to eat for a different purpose.

A = Anxious or Angry

Stress has a significant impact upon appetite. Ask yourself if you are feeling upset, stressed or anxious about something. What are the problems or anxieties that you would prefer erasing with food?

If you are anxious, the best thing to do is to try some breathing and relaxation techniques, such as the exercises found here. After you have taken at least 10 minutes to de-stress, ask yourself again if you are in the mood for “x” treat. If so . . .

L = Lonely

Loneliness can cause people to turn toward food. Because food is pleasurable and contains properties that increase the “feel-good hormone” serotonin in the brain, many people find that food is physically comforting and oftentimes, a distraction from feeling lonely. When you feel the urge coming on, ask yourself if you are feeling alone. If so, calling a friend or a family member can help. Online social networking arenas (like SparkPeople) have a built-in support system to help create connections with others. Walking a pet or visiting a neighbor or relative can also relieve loneliness. What else can you do?

T = Tired

Sometimes, people confuse tiredness for hunger. This is because sleep deprivation leads to changes in specific hormones that control appetite. According to the American College of Physicians, adequate sleep helps regulate appetite through the two hormones, leptin and ghrelin. Leptin decreases hunger, which means that you are less hungry when leptin levels are high. Ghrelin increases hunger, which means that you will feel hungry when ghrelin levels are high.

With sleep deprivation, ghrelin and leptin levels are altered and they increase appetite, according to the results of a brief randomized study published in the 2004 Annals of Internal Medicine. This is good news. By getting adequate sleep (at least 7-9 hours per night), you can help better control your appetite!

The bottom line is to know if you are hungry or simply tired. Try to do relaxation exercises; if you need more rest after deep breathing or a nap, then you are probably tired and should sleep!

Tips & Advice
What can you do instead of chowing down?

  • Exercise
  • Do yoga
  • Call a friend
  • Get some fresh air and take a walk
  • Read a book or magazine
  • Listen to music or play an instrument
  • Take a shower or bath
  • Start a new hobby
  • Play with a pet
  • Knit and other crafts
  • Work on puzzles and brain-teasers
  • Connect on SparkPeople
No matter the trigger, the same rule of thumb applies – HALT.



Marissa is a registered dietitian and has her Master of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is also a freelance writer, certified personal trainer and former collegiate athlete. She also writes the blog VacationConstipation.

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Comments

BOOKNUT52 6/28/2019
Great advice Report
BTINCHER2001 5/25/2019
I like the acronym, but when mindlessly noshing, it is unlikely that I will remember to say, HALT until I've satisfied the urge to eat. Report
LADYALYSE 4/28/2019
Thank you Report
SIMPLY_JAE 3/30/2019
Great article Report
SILVERY_STRAND 2/14/2019
Tracking my calories also help me when I’m emotionally eating. By seeing the calories on my page slows me down, and I’m able to eat less. Report
PAMBROWN62 1/24/2019
Thank you. I saved this to print for the Inspiration section of my journal. Report
KHALIA2 10/31/2018
Wisely done! Report
-POOKIE- 9/27/2018
great! Report
SISTERPRETTY 8/29/2018
Awesome....thanks.... Report
TOMATOCAFEGAL 7/28/2018
Totally believe every word in this article! Wow! Report
Excellent article. Good need-to-know information! Report
Love this. I have pinned it so I can refere to it again. Report
This is a great idea and gives me one more weapon to use. I definitely could be sabotaging myself with not enough sleep......... Report
Excellent article!! I really needed to read this!! Report
Thanks for the helpful article! :) Report
Lots of good information! Thank you! Report
A great article. When I feel tempted I get out for a walk. if the weather is bad, I hope on the stationary bike or I dance. Dancing makes you feel good and you forget about mindless eating. Report
ROCKS8ROX
Very informative! Report
JOANDENNEY
good ideas Report
I needed this big time! Thanks for sharing! Report
Thanks for the great way to stop my mindless grazing. I can remember that simple word too. I plan on sharing this blog with my sons. I think they will enjoy reading it too. Report
Wow, That was pretty enlightening. Seeing every reason I ate the wrong things today will in the future help me to HALT, move on to something more constructive or rethink my actions. Report
AWSOME IDEA!!!!!!!! Report
Great advice! Thanks! Report
Great advice, more tools to use when I'm reaching for that snack when I'm not hungry. Emotional eating can be a bear. Report
Good advice. Paul McKenna of "I CAN MAKE YOU THIN" has 4 great rules, as well. He has clips on YouTube. Report
Love this blog! Halt is easy to remember...In essence, stop & be mindful...If hunger is not the problem, then food isn't the solution. Report
Thanks for sharing!! I actually laughed out loud as you've described me to a tee! Love the acronym Report
Marissa - This is a fantastic idea. Thanks for the tip! Report
SUSIELYNN71
Thats fantastic! I love it:) Report
I PUT HALT ON MY PHONE SO I NEVER FORGET TO GO BY THIS!! Report
Thanks for sharing. It certainly makes us think before we eat. Report
COOKIES101
I will try to use this Acronym from now on. I find when I over eat it is usually for one those reasons. I am trying to get out of the loop of eating healthily until the weight comes off and then resorting same bad habits again. Report
THISISLINDAMAY
I USE A PICTURE OF A STOP SIGN - ITS POSTED ON ALL MY CUPBOARDS AND FRIDGE WITH THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE - IF YOUR NOT HUNGRY WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IS "NOT" HERE. I FIND THIS VISUAL VERY HELPFUL FOR ME.

I ALSO USE ANOTHER STRATEGY THAT I LEARNT FROM THE BOOK LOVE WHAT YOU EAT EAT WHAT YOU LOVE - SPEED BUMP. WHAT YOU DO IS WHEN YOU HAVE YOUR PLATE, TAKE ALL YOUR FOOD AND DIVIDE IT IN HALF, EAT THE FIRST HALF BUT WHILE EATING BE MINDFUL OF YOUR "SMALL" BITES AND REMEMBER THERE ARE NO TASTE BUDS IN YOUR CHEECKS OR BACK OF YOUR MOUTH. THEY ARE IN THE FRONT AND ITS ONLY FOR THE FIRST FEW BITES THAT YOU ACTUALLY TAST THE FOODS. WHEN I AM DONE THE FIRST HALF, I ASK MYSELF HOW HUNGRY I AM USING A SCALE OF 1 TO 10. 1 IS STARVING, NOT GOOD, 10 IS STUFFED ALSO NOT GOOD. I STRIVE FOR 4 - BEING SATISFIED. I FIND THAT THIS HAS HELPED ME TO UNDERSTAND I AM EATING TO LIVE NOT LIVING TO EAT. LINDIE Report
FITFORLIFE039
Having a HALT sign posted in the kitchen will help as a reminder to HALT before eating that evening snack. Thanks! Report
BEALIEVE
This was a great BLOG ... Thank You! Report
I feel like this is me in a nutshell. Thanks, Halt will become a part of my everyday thoughts. Report
Thank you for the wonderful info. I am sure I will benefit greatly from it. Report
I too will use "HALT." I tend to notice that many times when I want to eat something, I really just need a nap! Report
JOANPATRICIA2
Thanks. Great info, I will be giving this a try. Report
VEGGIE_GIRL8
This is really great for awareness. I have always bit my nails and not realized it (wearing fake ones now to try and break the habit) perhaps I am doing the same thing with my eating habits...HALT will definitely help Report
we had this acronym in Sunday School this week..it was used as the devil tempted Jesus in the desert. Same meaning. Where I fall off is when I am at work and you have been at your desk for an hour, nothing to do you have really done some of the things on the list but you are restricted to others, instead of eating the M&M's that are supplied by the manager what should you do? Yes I have brought in healthy snacks but I still have at least 6 more hours to go....I don't want to get fat again... Report
I think the T should also stand for TV. It's so easy to eat mindlessly when the TV's on, especially Foot Network. Report
I love this acronym. Thank you. HALT Report
I belong to a group that has changed HALT to PHALT. The p is for pain which can cause us to eat mindlessly. Report
SHARONSMEOW
Halt! I will definitely try it. Thanks. :) Report
CUTIE1231
I"m an acronym person so I really like what " HALT" means and I will be implementing this ASAP. Report
Wow-this should help me--I am an emotional eater lots--so I can get to do other things instead of eat! Report
good idea will try Report