Hunger is just one of the reasons people keep eating.
It’s a fact that most of us live to eat, not eat to live. Have you ever found yourself reaching for a cookie, helping yourself to a second serving, or binge-eating while binge-watching your favorite shows? Neglecting to check in to see if you’re legitimately hungry? Food has become so much more than nourishment for the body and brain. We live in a culture where overeating is common and normalized.
There are many reasons that we feel the urge to eat even when we’re full, but with greater self-awareness, we can recognize the triggers and find solutions to get us out of this vicious cycle. It is never a positive feeling when you say to yourself, “I literally can’t stop eating.”
Let’s face it – it’s easier to dive into a tub of ice cream than dive into our emotions. With bent-spoon in hand, we scrape the bottom of the bowl without touching the surface of the feelings that we’re eating away. We turn to food during times of grief, anger, and sadness so that we can both comfort the body and give it something to do.
Instead of drowning your sorrows in a root beer float, take a pause and check in with yourself. Go within, shutting out all distractions and external stimuli in order to dig deeper. It’s only once we’re in an open, receptive state that we can begin to get to the root of the issue; connecting with our emotions in a calm manner, and discovering how and why they arose in the first place.
Although eating is an enjoyable way to pass the time, it’s a good idea to remind yourself that consuming food is not an ideal hobby. Unless you’re a world-champion hot dog eater, it’s probably best that you find other, more constructive ways to enjoy life.
When you find your mind wandering to food when you’re not hungry, retrain it to wander elsewhere. Start a new book, take in a movie, go for a walk…there are countless ways to entertain yourself without picking up a fork. Rather than scold yourself for eating when bored, make it your mission to add more spice to your life. Boredom comes from a lack of excitement, so kick it up a notch!
Out of Habit
Eat, eat, repeat. Sometimes we run on scheduled time rather than trusting the body’s natural instincts. Therefore, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts become more habits than necessity. You may also associate eating with certain activities, such as office breaks, going to the movies, family gatherings, etc., and are more likely to eat on autopilot during these situations.
A good way to be more mindful of habits is to be more mindful in general. For instance, instead of munching away on popcorn and treats at the movies, make the movie-watching experience the main event. At social gatherings, try to maintain conversations and be present with who you’re talking to rather than filling your plate.
This sounds a bit backward, but sometimes extreme fatigue can inspire us to take action and eat. When faced with an afternoon slump, we tend to reach for coffee, cookies, and anything else that might get us through the rest of the day. We all know that these little energy boosts, however, can become major energy crashes once the high wears off.
The next time you’re faced with fatigue, try moving your body instead of your fork; taking a walk around the block, checking the mail, visiting the restroom, and generally bringing more air and life into the body and mind.
Have you ever been to a dinner party and gave in to a second serving to avoid offending the host? How about eating “just one more” homemade brownie, pressured by your Mom’s insistence (and probably some guilt, too)? Expressing appreciation for food is great, but it’s important to know your boundaries. Eating to please others isn’t healthy for either party, so remember that it’s okay to protest politely! Mom will understand if you communicate your needs and ask for her support and love.
Quite often, the hostess of the dinner party, the cook at your favorite restaurant, or your relatives are just trying to make sure that nothing goes to waste and that everyone is satisfied. If you’d like to have your cake and eat it, too (pun intended), you can opt for a pleasant “I couldn’t possibly eat another bite, but I’d love to take a slice home for later!”
Food gives us life, nourishes us, comforts us. It’s not unusual to turn to it in times of stress or pressure. Noticing how, why, and when we eat tells us far more about ourselves than we could imagine; these habits help us understand our connection to our bodies and bring to light our inner motivations. Once we’re aware of our eating habits, we can begin to make lasting changes that benefit our health, minds, and relationships.