For the past two weeks, I’ve led participants in my Facebook group, Ditch the Diet Tribe, in a Freedom from Emotional Eating Challenge. They are a great group of people doing the hard work of breaking the habit of eating when they aren’t hungry, for example, afternoon snacking, so they can lose weight and keep it off.
The Challenge of Afternoon Snacking
One thing that keeps coming up for a lot of them, as well as my clients, is the challenge of not eating in the afternoon. If you are hungry, there’s nothing wrong with having an afternoon snack as long as you eat it without distractions. This allows us to either truly enjoy our food so that we don’t get cravings after we’ve eaten, or to realize that eating can be pretty boring sometimes, and maybe we’d rather be doing something else. I have a friend who teaches kindergarten all day. When she arrived home around 4:00 p.m., she always had a snack. She wasn’t hungry, so I asked her why she chose to eat. She said because she was tired. I knew she loved to read, and suggested that before she leaped into starting house chores and dinner preparation, she gave herself a 15-minute break on the sofa to read a book. Although she hesitated at first about allowing herself such an indulgence, she thought it was a wonderful idea. Fascinating how we have no problem indulging in sweets and crunchy snacks, but feel guilty allowing ourselves to take a break!
Why You Eat When You’re Not Hungry
Often when people want to eat in the afternoon, it isn’t because they’re hungry. I’ve heard all kinds of excuses for afternoon snacking, most commonly:
- I’m tired
- I worked so hard today that I deserve this (fill in the blank)
- I need a break
- I’m low on energy
- It’s been a long day and I need a pick-me-up
If you aren’t hungry, food isn’t going to fix the problem. Unless you have certain health conditions, it won’t cure fatigue, and sometimes contributes to it. You’re using food as your drug of choice for comfort. This really is about misdirected self-care. Eating when you’re tired is about as effective as treating a headache with an antacid. So here are some ideas for caring for yourself when you are tired but not hungry. You can even set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes if you are concerned about starting your home responsibilities.
- Read a book
- Read a magazine
- Take a nap
- Do a body scan or Yoga Nidra*
- Go for a stroll
- Sit in the garden and get some sunshine
- Read to your kids
- Play with your pet
- Call a friend or family member just to say hello
- Play solitaire
- Play a computer game or app
- Listen to a podcast
- Watch a TED Talk
- Have a cup of tea or coffee
- Do a crossword puzzle or Sudoku
- Relax in the tub
- Listen to music
- Catch up on social media
- Do qigong*
- Write in a journal
Self Care and Your Body
Proper self-care is a very important component in the process of losing weight. Giving your body food it doesn’t need is not self-care. Make caring for yourself a priority. You’ll feel better emotionally, and will be less likely to turn to food for comfort.
If you’re ready to learn how to kick the emotional eating habit for good, sign up for my email course 30 Days to End Emotional Eating Forever by clicking on the button below. Or click on the button to learn more.
NOTES: *Yoga nidra is a state of relaxed consciousness attained through a form of guided meditation. Many versions are available in the iTunes store, and a number of guided body scans and yoga nidras are also available on the Insight Meditation Timer app. ** Qigong is an ancient Chinese health practice that involves rhythmic flowing movements that help distribute and regulate your energy or qi. It it calming and meditative, yet increases stamina and energy, and improves flexibility and the immune system. There are a number of online resources (here’s one free example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6Y8QSVyYhM), and in person classes may available in your community.