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Why People Eat When They’re Not Hungry
Four Ways to Stop

Do you eat when you're not hungry?
Do you eat when you're not hungry?

“Eating healthy is easy.” That’s what a client that weighed over 350 pounds told me. “My problem isn’t what I’m supposed to eat. My problem is the food I eat when I’m NOT hungry.”

That admission was a surprising insight into obesity. It turns out, there are many situations throughout the day that can trigger what I call, “non-essential eating.” Recognizing those triggers and having a plan to deal with them, is critical for anyone trying to lose weight. Here are four examples.

Eating when others expect you to.

You go to work and there’s a box of donuts lurking in the breakroom. A friend has a birthday with cake and snack food. You go to happy hour with friends who order plates of appetizers.

Practice polite avoidance. Don’t go into the breakroom, and those donuts won’t tempt you. Bring a small apple or tangerine with you when cake is being served. Join your friends for happy hour, but explain you’ll just be there for one drink.

Make alternate arrangements if avoidance doesn’t work. If you’re responsible for party refreshments, provide a bowl of fresh fruit along with traditional sweets so people can make healthier choices. Suggest meeting friends at a park, challenge them to an escape room or have them join you on a 5K walk for charity.

Eating when you’re bored.

It can happen on a long commute if there’s nothing you want to watch or on a weekend when you haven’t made plans. Boredom strikes and grabbing food seems like a good idea. Unfortunately, even if you drag it out, eating a few hundred calories only lasts 10 or 20 minutes. What will you do afterward?

Boredom eaters need to keep busy. Make a list of things you want to do or need to accomplish. Mix work and play together. Schedule time to do some housework and follow that with a walk to the park. Clean out your car and then surprise a friend with a handwritten letter. Volunteer for a charity then stop by your local library and check out a book you want to read. Eating isn’t as appealing when you stay active.

Eating when you’re tired.

It can strike mid-morning if you didn’t get enough sleep; in the afternoon an hour or two after lunch; or late at night after you’ve finished a TV binge. When you’re tired, food provides energy and helps perk you up, but the extra calories add up fast.

Figure out when your ideal bedtime should be to get a full nights sleep. Set an alarm and resolve to stop what you’re doing and go to bed when it goes off. Then remove distractions from your bedroom so it’s easier to relax.

When sleep isn’t an option, get up and move. In the morning, walk outside and let the light of the sun help wake you up. In the afternoon, drink a glass of cold water and walk for 10 minutes. If you’re able to take a nap, set an alarm and rest for 10 or 20 minutes.

Eating to finish everything on your plate.

When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to leave the table unless I cleaned my plate. As an adult, I still feel pangs of guilt when I don’t eat everything in front of me. How to deal with it depends on the situation.

In a restaurant, order strategically. Ask for things to be kept off your plate so you won’t be tempted. Substitute healthier options when possible. If the restaurant is known for large servings, split the meal with someone else or arrange a to-go box for another meal later.

At dinner with friends, put smaller portions on your plate than you think you’ll eat. Chances are when you’re done, you’ll be satisfied and your plate will be clean. If you’re still hungry when you finish, you can always compliment the cook and ask for more. 

Now it’s up to you. Take control and live a healthier, happier life.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.