How to stop eating when you’re not hungry!

I know perfectly well that you should only eat when you’re hungry. Unfortunately there is a part of my brain that thinks I should eat when I feel like it. It’s the same part responsible for “eyes bigger than stomach” syndrome – something else I suffer from regularly!

So why do people eat when they’re not hungry? There are many emotional reasons why people eat: tiredness, sadness, happiness, anger, hormones, and a need to comfort eat. I think I’m right in saying that generally women are more subject to emotional eating than men. However, the two main reasons why I eat when I’m not hungry are just boredom and simply being greedy!

I don’t mean I’m bored out of my mind, merely that a lot of the tasks I do are not terribly exciting a lot of the time: housework, commuting, my job, admin at home etc., and I find low level distraction like eating a welcome break. And as for being greedy, well I just like eating nice food and can find it hard to resist at times, especially if its there in front of me.

So here is a list, a compilation of things you can do to combat emotional eating, boredom eating, and plain old greed!

To help remove cravings:

  • Clean your teeth after a meal
  • Chew sugar free gum
  • Eat sugar free mints
  • Have a glass of water
  • Have a cup of green tea or fruit tea
  • Wait 30 minutes before allowing yourself a snack – the craving may pass


Physical distraction – quick:

  • Move to another part of the house far away from the kitchen
  • Change the activity you are doing
  • Do one minute of star jumps
  • Do a crossword puzzle
  • Cut your nails
  • Run up and down the stairs
  • Reply to a few posts on an online forum
  • Phone a friend
  • Write in your diary or do a blog post
  • Tweet
  • Read a magazine article


Physical distraction – long:

  • Go out for a walk
  • Find an activity to get absorbed in: a book, a film, a computer game or a jigsaw puzzle
  • Do some gardening
  • Do a housework task
  • Meditate or practice the relaxation response
  • Take a long bath or shower
  • Get a new hobby that will keep your fingers and mind busy – cross-stitch or a musical instrument for example
  • Do some yoga
  • Do an exercise DVD
  • Go to the shop for a paper – cone home and read it


Preventative measures:

  • Remove unhealthy snacks from the house
  • Take a healthy packed lunch and snacks to work
  • Keep cup a soup in your drawer in the office
  • Stick a note on the fridge in large type which says ARE YOU REALLY HUNGRY?
  • Don’t have “just one” – it will lead to more
  • Don’t stay up late watching telly
  • Keep a food diary to make your snacking accountable
  • Plan treats into your diet to remove feelings of deprivation


Combat the emotions:

  • Calmly consider the long term effect of too many snacks on your digestion and health – is it really worth it?
  • Try and tune in to your hunger signals, are they really there, or is another emotion at the surface?
  • Are you stressed? – Try to address the root cause, don’t cover it with food
  • Do you have a genuine problem but don’t know the answer? – Perhaps therapy is the answer to help you address your issues


At the supermarket:

  • Only allow yourself to buy the things on your list
  • Don’t go into a supermarket spontaneously
  • Don’t  go into a supermarket when you’re hungry
  • Don’t buy unhealthy foods just because they are on offer
  • Try not to browse in a supermarket
  • Purposely purchase some healthy snacks if you have a tendency to snack


If you give in, go for damage limitation:

  • Have a cup a soup
  • Eat some vegetable sticks: carrot, celery, cucumber
  • Eat some pickled onions or beetroot
  • Choose a snack that involves effort to eat – nuts with shells in, satsumas, lychees
  • Lay the snack on a plate, don’t eat from the bag
  • Eat mindfully, slowly, and consciously


Next time I get the urge to snack when I’m not hungry I’m going to try referring to my own list – hopefully just having made the list will make my head think that I should practice what I preach!

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Please leave a comment

  1. Tracy :) in pa Says:

    i really enjoyed reading this article….great tips…and your honesty is refreshing to me… i’m at the point that whenever i eat anything i feel ashamed and spiral….it’s a long spiral and i hope i can get a grip in it thanks for being on here

  2. admin Says:

    Thanks Tracy, I’m glad you found it helpful! The road to healthy eating is definitely long and tricky in today’s world – supporting each other is the way to go. x

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