Many people struggle with mindless eating and find that they tend to graze throughout the day or evenings. Overtime, this negative habit can lead to many health consequences including increases in weight gain, blood pressure and blood sugar.
If this is a problem you struggle with, then read on to find out ways to help break this habit!
Emotional Hunger vs. Physical Hunger
There are many reasons why people eat and they can usually be considered due to either emotional hunger or physical hunger.
When you are having emotional hunger, it could be due to boredom, stress, sadness or even out of habit. On the other hand, physical hunger is due to a physiological need to eat.
Sometimes our physical hunger cues can be negatively altered due to hormonal imbalances or because we train our body to expect to eat frequently. Over time, hunger can be normalized with proper adjustments in diet and other lifestyle modifications.
If you are truly hungry, it’s okay to have a decent snack or meal! It’s better to give in and have something wholesome and satisfying to keep you on track instead of risking going too long without eating, triggering a binge.
What to Do Instead of Emotional Eating
If you are having issues with emotional eating, then you need to find some non-food coping mechanisms to use when the emotional hunger feelings hit. Identify why you are emotionally eating. Keep a journal and start to monitor your patterns.
First, stay away from triggers, whether it is the food, people, situation or environment that triggers you to emotionally eat. You may find that it’s certain family, friends, places or times of day. Come up with a plan to minimize their negative impact.
If you know that when you are vulnerable you get a big bowl of ice cream or eat a whole bag of chips, then try not to bring those particular trigger foods in the home.
You certainly can enjoy these items on occasion, but if it is too irresistible and tempting for you and causing you to stumble, then you may need to keep them out of your environment for a period of time.
Eating When Not Hungry
If you find that you are consistently eating when not hungry, try to identify what is making you want to eat when you are not hungry. There are many reasons why people eat when they are not hungry.
Is it because you are bored, sad, stressed, out of habit or because other people have given you food? Sometimes, it could just be because the food tastes good and it makes you feel good! Or maybe there is just plenty of food available and it makes you feel compelled to eat it.
Of course, it’s fine to eat when you aren’t hungry on occasion, however, if this is a common pattern for you and if it is damaging your health, you may want to work on finding other activities to try to break this habit.
What to do Instead of Eating (20 Ideas)!
Here are 20 activities that you can try to help you to stop eating when you are not physically hungry:
- Get up, put your shoes on and go for a walk. Even if it’s raining, you can walk inside the house or march in place while watching TV.
- Drink 8-16 oz. of water, tea, broth or a different unsweetened beverage.
- Use a sugar free gum or mint.
- Call a friend or family member and tell them about your health goals, so they can support you.
- Do something on your to-do list like pay the bills or get the mail.
- Brush and floss your teeth.
- Go write your meal plan for the next few days, so you can prepare everything and be ready.
- Do some strengthening exercises, with weights or using your bodyweight to get some of your stress out.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes and clean a room as fast as you can.
- Take a relaxing bath.
- Work on a puzzle. Using your brain may help you get your mind off of food.
- Pray for patience, strength and peace.
- Read a book.
- Put some music on and dance or do an aerobic workout.
- Play a game (cards, board game, video games, etc.)
- Write and mail a card to someone who is lonely or who you haven’t spoken with in a while. Find a penpal online or locally. Military members, church missionaries or nursing home residents may be good penpal choices.
- Write down your thoughts, feelings, goals and dreams in a journal to help with building the future you want to achieve.
- Work on your vegetable garden or do other yard work.
- Do a chore that you have been putting off and promise yourself that if you are truly hungry, when you are done, then you will get a meal or snack.
- Join our wellness group for accountability! We would love to have you be a part of our 4-week program to help you when you are having these cravings.
Getting Back on Track
Sometimes, we can try very hard to limit mindless eating and we still end up indulging and that is okay. Don’t give up!
Even if you give in, you may still be making progress with what you choose to eat or how much. Maybe you are doing better than you used to and that is a win! All progress is beneficial. The more you work at it, the easier it will be to stick with your new healthy habits.