3 Steps for Dealing with the Urge to Eat When You Aren’t Hungry

3 Steps for Dealing with the Urge to Eat When You Aren’t Hungry | Weight Loss for Foodies

One of the biggest challenges for people trying to lose weight is what to do when they feel like eating but arent hungry. Thats the reason people are overweightbecause they dont eat in response to their hunger and fullness signals.  

They eat because someone brought pastries or pizza to work, because theyre upset about something someone did or didnt do, or for entertainment. There are at least a thousand reasons why people choose to eat that have absolutely nothing to do with their bodys need for food. 

Im a weight loss coach for foodies, and because diets dont work, I take a different approach. If you want to lose weight without dieting or depriving yourself of the foods you love, it is essential to get in touch with your bodys hunger signals and only eat in response to them. You see, when you eat when you arent hungry, your body stores that energy as fat. Thats how you gain weight.

And donsayBut Im eating healthy food! You can overeat healthy food. I know. I did it for years. 

Most of us experience two kinds of hunger. Body hunger is when your body needs food for energy. Its the kind of hunger you feel in your belly. It produces hunger pangs, a hollow feeling or even lightheadedness or mild headaches. When our body gives us that physical hunger signal, we should respond by eating.  

Then there is that urge  to eat  for any other reason. I call that “head hunger.  This signal doesnt come from your belly. It comes from habits developed to use food to fix things it cant fix. Like to be your friend when youre lonely. That kind of thing. 

A good clue that youre experiencing head hunger is when you arent sure what you want to eat, or you definitely crave something like crunchy or sweet foods. If youre not sure, ask yourself whether a cup of plain yogurt or a banana would do the trick. If you only want something exciting to eat, you probably arent experiencing body hunger. 

All this means that to lose weight, you have to learn how to deal with the urge to eat when you arent hungry. That urge is a habit. Like any habit, you can change it.

3 Steps for Dealing with the Urge to Eat When You Aren’t Hungry | Weight Loss for Foodies

​​Heres how that works. 

  1. Start with your thought. Remember, thats all the urge to eat is when you arent hungry. Its just a thought. Its that little voice in your head sayingI want chocolate! or that looks good or I deserve that. You have tens of thousands of thoughts each day and you dont act on the great majority of them. If you had a thoughtI wonder what it would be like to try heroin, you would ignore that one, right? Acknowledge that the urge to eat is just another thought. Observe it and choose to not act on it. I like to visualize letting the thought float away like a helium balloon. Often, if you ignore it, the urge will be gone in a few minutes. Sometimes, it may come back, but you can just notice it and release it again.  
  2. Dont reward the urge. Have you ever trained a dog? When the dog sits on command, you give him a treat, and that encourages him to do it the next time you give the command. The same is true for giving into the urge to eatPsychologically, youre reinforcing that behavior.  
  3. Keep it up. The converse is also true. You can reinforce new habits with repetitionTo change a habit, you have to repeat the new behavior over and over againHabits are like well-worn paths in our brains. Often the longer we engage in the habit, the more worn the path is, making the habit more entrenched. It takes longer to change our behavior. When we let the urge to eat when we aren’t hungry pass, that path gets overgrown while we make a new path with the new habit of eating only when we are hungry. This is how neuroplasticity actually works. If we give into the urge, the old familiar path starts getting worn down again. Stay on the new path!

On the other hand, you can think of the positive effects of your efforts and use that to reinforce the decision to let these urges pass. When I was learning to eat when I was hungry, and got the urge to eat for other reasons, I would think, Ive worked too hard at changing my habit to undo all of that effort! I used my progress as an incentive to keep going.  Then I would congratulate myself by saying something like, "Yay! You didn't eat when you weren't hungry. Nice work!"

The same was true with overeating. When eating a delicious restaurant meal, I sometimes would want to keep eating after my body had enough. I would think of how good I felt not overeating, how good it felt to have lost weight, and would decide that those extra bites just werent worth feeling bloated afterwards or gaining the weight back. Again, it was all about my thinking. 

For many of us, the urge to eat when we arent hungry is due to emotional issues. If you want to stop emotional eating, I have a wonderful free 14-day Freedom from Emotional Eating Challenge, which you can sign up for here. 

About the Author Shari Broder

I work with smart women who want to lose weight and keep it off. I help them discover what is really causing their weight problem, fix it at the source, and teach them how to enjoy the foods they love while permanently losing their desire to overeat along with their excess weight. I'd love to teach my method to you! I’m also a gourmet cook and baker who struggled with my weight for 40 years before discovering the secret to not overeating.

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