Most people think that an individual only eats when they are hungry. However, that is not the case. Some people eat even when they are not hungry. You may think that such people may know when to stop. Unfortunately, they don’t. They may overindulge, and if it becomes a regular habit, they may lose control over their hunger. We understand how hard it is to come back from such a habit. So, here is a guide on how to stop eating when not hungry to avoid further and more dangerous pitfalls.
Is Eating When Not Hungry Okay?
We all have that moment where we tend to overeat, especially if we are on holiday or at a function. This, coupled with good food, equals high chances of overeating, even if we are not hungry.
However, some people tend to consume more than is termed usual, even while at home. Eating because you are hungry is okay. Sneaking in a few bites despite being full is also okay. However, eating when one is not hungry to the point where one loses control is not okay.
It may lead to a problem, especially if this behavior becomes regular.
Here are some of the effects of eating when you are not hungry:
A calorie surplus is when you are consuming more calories than your body is burning. It can lead to weight gain in the form of fat or muscle. Most people report weight gain in fat because they eat more junk and processed foods.
Weight gain in the form of fat can be dangerous to your health. According to WebMD, fat increases your risk of obesity or being overweight (5). In addition, most overweight women report higher levels of male hormones that cause several body changes.
For example, such women have excess facial hair and acne and have pattern balding (5). Again, increased weight affects insulin levels in your body, which increases diabetes risk. In addition, diabetes is one of the risk factors of cardiovascular disease (5).
Eating when you are not hungry has also been associated with several health issues. These include high blood sugar levels and binge eating disorders. Binge eating disorder is a severe eating condition where you frequently consume large amounts of food and feel unable to stop eating (1).
This eating disorder has several complications, including poor quality of life, obesity, and poor functioning at work and home. In addition, binge eating disorder has also been linked to many diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, joint problems, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (1).
How To Stop Eating When Not Hungry?
“I can’t stop eating. What should I do?” You will come across such calls for help online. Believe it or not, many people are struggling with mindless eating. If you are trying to fight the urge of not wanting to eat but are being tempted to, experts recommend you try any of the following activities:
Indulging In A Leisure Activity
One of the best ways of fighting this insatiable food urge is by indulging in a leisure activity. Grab your dancing shoes if you love dancing and put on that music. Put on your walking shoes and go brisk walking if you enjoy this activity.
There are so many activities that rank under leisure. So, do not be tied down by our two examples. Instead, you will identify your leisure activity by determining the activity you enjoy doing the most.
Experts believe this technique could work for several reasons.
First and foremost, for many, leisure activities draw them away from the kitchen. There is a saying that out of sight is out of mind. Well, that concept applies here!
Secondly, research shows that indulging in an activity you enjoy improves your mood and reduces stress levels (3). Stress is one of the risk factors of eating even when we are full. It makes most people indulge in what is known as emotional eating.
Thirdly, participating in an activity that you enjoy has been linked to enhanced creativity and a sense of accomplishment. You find that you spend more time being creative during leisure activities. For example, if you love knitting, you may find a new creative pattern to knit.
Likewise, if you love drawing, you find some art you may love to draw to challenge yourself. The busier you are, the less focused you are on food.
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Reducing Your Stress Levels
Everyone feels stressed from time to time. It does not matter what causes it, but stress is inevitable. Not all stress is bad. Low-level stress can be an eye-opener and encourage growth by increasing your alertness and performance (2).
However, chronic stress is bad for you. The prolonged feeling of being stressed can negatively affect your life in so many ways. For example, it can lead to extreme irritability that may fracture some relationships at home or work.
Most people have no problem managing low-level stress. However, when it comes to chronic stress, that is another story. Most people with chronic stress turn to food for comfort. Unfortunately, most people do not know when to stop eating. They will overindulge even if they are no longer hungry. Stress eating is not the answer.
It is quite the opposite and has been linked to several health conditions, such as binge eating disorder and obesity. Therefore, the best approach to managing your stress is by looking for effective stress-relieving methods.
There are so many stress relieving methods to choose from, and you have to look for what is best for you. Some expert-approved stress-relieving methods include (2):
- Exercising. When you exercise, your brain releases feel-good hormones that leave you in a better mood. Similarly, exercising helps you get rid of built-up tension and frustration.
- Practicing relaxation techniques. Some relaxation techniques like yoga, tai chi, and deep breathing help slow your heart rate and blood pressure. These two occur when you are stressed and are risk factors for several diseases like high blood pressure.
- Developing a positive outlook. A negative attitude can contribute to stress because of your outlook on things. Negative thoughts include, for example, “Today is not my day, everything will go wrong” or “I will never get this job, I’m less qualified for it”. These thoughts hinder positive thinking and may increase your anxiety and stress levels. Try to think and practice positivity.
- Listening to music. There is a saying that music is the food to the soul, and we cannot agree more with it. Believe it or not, listening to some sweet and relaxing music can calm you and reduce your stress, tension, frustration, and anxiety. So, find the genre you love, whether it is soft Rock, RnB, Hip-hop, Reggae, or Country music.
- Accepting you cannot change some things. There are some situations where people get stressed over things they cannot control. For example, getting stressed because of excess traffic, yet you have an urgent meeting. You cannot change the fact that traffic is forming. However, you can look for ways to relax before your appointment or park and walk to the meeting place if convenient.
Getting Enough Rest
It sounds far-fetched, but it is not. Lack of good, quality sleep increases hunger and may lead to overeating, to the point that you lose control. So, you end up eating even if you are not feeling hungry.
Experts also state that lack of sleep increases a desire for weight-gain promoting high-calorie foods (4). They go further and link insufficient sleep to the development and maintenance of obesity (4).
So, you are advised to get enough rest, if you can. Some behaviors that can help you achieve this include reducing screen time before bed and creating a conducive environment. You can also try practices like guided meditation. Seek medical advice if you are struggling with sleep problems like sleep apnea.
Yes, getting busy may also save you from unnecessary eating. You find that most people eat just because they have nothing else to do, yet food is at their disposal. So get creative and look for something to keep you busy.
Wash those dishes in the sink, do yard work, fold the clothes, do laundry, or vacuum the house. These activities keep you on your toes with little time to overeat. Similarly, you can also finish up on pending work, wash the family pet, or walk the dog. Whatever it is, just try something you think is beneficial and keeps you away from the kitchen.
Another reason why you may be feeling hungry after eating is that you are dehydrated. More often, people mistake thirst for hunger. This is because most people cannot tell the difference between the two. As a result, they find themselves overindulging in food.
So, experts advise you to drink water and wait 30 minutes before eating. If you feel hungry after 30 minutes, then drink water again. You can then eat after the 30 minutes are done, and you still feel hungry.
WebMD also advises people to look for other dehydration symptoms. Some include dizziness, fatigue, and peeing less often, or having dark-colored pee (6). Remember that dehydration has been associated with far more severe health problems, so you need to avoid it at all costs.
Some of these health problems include heat cramps, heat strokes, and seizures. So, drink as much water as you can. However, not at one go but at different times and throughout the day. Research shows that you can increase satiety on fewer calories if you drink a glass of water before and during your meals (6).
Changing Your Diet
In addition to all the suggested approaches, food experts also acknowledge that you may be eating even when not hungry because of your current diet. For example, you may be having meals that do not fill you up faster or have low satiety.
In such a case, you will need to eat more before you feel full. In this case, you will need to talk to your nutritionist and have them make several dietary changes. For example, they may add more low-calorie, high-volume foods to your diet.
These foods make you fill up quickly without getting more calories than you need. In addition, their filling properties may stave off hunger and for a longer duration, hence reducing your habit of eating even when you are not hungry (5).
It takes a lot of professionalism and knowledge to know what low-calorie, high-volume foods to eat and get all your dietary needs. So, it would be best if you made changes to your diet plan with the help of a professional like a nutritionist.
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Reminding Yourself Of The Aftermath
It may seem silly, but reminding yourself of what happens next when you overindulge may save you from so much. For example, it could save you extra calories and unwanted weight gain. Now, there is a difference between scolding and reminding yourself.
When reminding yourself, you could tell yourself, “If I eat this cheesecake, I will exceed my calorie limit and end up bloated, sad, and mad at myself.” On the other hand, scolding is negative-oriented and may rob you of your energy and good mood.
So, do not waste your energy trying to scold or give yourself a lecture. Such harsh criticism only makes you want to give in to the meal and sabotage your weight loss results if you were dieting. Instead, try the gentle, reasonable approach for better results. It may not be what you may be willing to hear at the moment, but it certainly has an impact on the next move you make.
The Bottom Line
Determining when and how to stop eating when not hungry can be challenging for various reasons. The most significant reason is that you may not know this is a problem. This guide helps you put an end to mindless eating using simple approaches. They include getting adequate sleep, hydrating, managing stress levels, indulging in a leisure activity, and getting busy! Although these approaches are pretty straightforward, their impact is profound.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Binge-eating disorder (2018, mayoclinic.org)
- Learn to manage stress (2021, medlineplus.gov)
- Leisure Time Is Good for Your Mental Health, Productivity (2021, webmd.com)
- The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Impact of Weight on Your Body (2007, webmd.com)
- Why Am I Always Hungry? (2021, webmd.com)