You just came back from lunch and are full, but someone in your office brought in cupcakes to share. You really want one!
You’re sitting at home in the evening after supper, and are tired and bored, thinking about eating those cookies in the kitchen.
You walk into a party after having dinner in a restaurant with friends. Those hors d’oeuvres looks so good!
What do you do? You clearly aren’t hungry. But do you have trouble saying “no” to food?
There can be many reasons why you want to eat. Here are a few:
- Scarcity mindset. If you think, “I’d better eat that cupcake because I don’t know when I’ll get another chance to have one,” you have scarcity mindset. But think about this: is there any reason why you can’t buy a cupcake (or bake some) the next time you really want one? Probably not.
- FOMO. Fear of missing out. This is related to the scarcity mindset. Let's say you’re in Paris, and the food there is amazing. You don’t want to miss anything, so you stuff yourself with crèpes, croissants and pastries because who knows when you’ll have a chance to eat those next?
- Fear of deprivation: So many people nowadays don’t want to deprive themselves of anything. Not just food, but those fabulous shoes they don’t need, those great earrings, etc. So we treat ourselves like spoiled children, and give in to all of our urges. And we gain weight.
- Dieting: This is the flip side of fear of deprivation. If you’re a dieter, you’re living with deprivation, always having a list of foods you “shouldn’t” eat, which makes it that much more likely that you’ll be unable to resist them when they’re placed in front of you.
- Using food as a reward: You’ve had a rough day. Your boss yelled at you. You have too much to do. So instead of giving yourself the care you need, you give your body food it doesn’t need and that may cause weight gain. Great reward, huh?
- Using food to relieve your unease. You’re experiencing uncomfortable emotions. Maybe you’re angry at your spouse or a friend. You’re nervous or scared about something. Rather than accepting that such emotions are normal and being willing to experience them and let them pass naturally, you eat to distract yourself from them. (And the emotions aren’t resolved, so they come back later.)
- You’re on autopilot. You aren’t even thinking about why you want to eat or whether you really like the particular food. Eating when food is there is just what you do. It’s a habit. Because you don’t really pay attention to what you’re eating, you don’t enjoy it very much, and keep eating more to feel satisfied. But you can never get enough of something you don’t really want or need.
I call all of these urges to eat “head hunger” or emotional hunger. The urge comes from your brain, not your belly. So what can you do about it? Here are six strategies, and doing them as steps is best.
- Pause and ask yourself why you want to eat. Is it one of those reasons listed above? Recognize that if it is, your body doesn't need food. If you feed it, it will store more fat on your body. Now you have a great opportunity to learn how to use the more evolved part of your brain to override the urges coming from the more primitive part. Wait five minutes before eating anything. During that time, do the remaining steps.
- Change your thinking. Stop thinking, “I can’t resist that food!” Instead, think, “I choose not to eat when I’m not hungry.” You become what you think, so stop believing that you are powerless over the inanimate object that is food. Try thinking this truth: “If hunger isn’t the problem, food won’t fix it.” Use these thoughts or others like them that resonate with you when you get the urge to eat and aren’t hungry.
- Change your mindset. Approach difficult eating situations with an abundance mindset. Think about how much good food there is in your life on a regular basis, and know that you never have to eat food just because it’s there. All you have to do is wait until you are hungry, and then have whatever you want! Then stop eating when you feel lightly full.
- Think of what you’re giving up when you give in. When you give in to the urge to eat, you’re depriving yourself of that wonderful light and energetic feeling, and of a slimmer, healthier body. You’re depriving yourself of the chance to put your commitment to yourself, your goals and your health first.
- Notice whether there is anything else that isn’t food that you really want or need. Are you tired and need rest? Are you lonely? Are you eating to fill an emotional hunger? If so, check out my free 8 Secrets for Permanent Weight Loss Guide HERE.
- Remember why you want to weigh less. Then ask yourself “Would I rather eat when I’m not hungry or would I rather be slimmer?” Do you really want to seek pleasure from food at the expense of your health and your weight goals?
Did the urge to eat go away? Sometimes, all it takes is pausing and waiting a few minutes.
When you stop using food to feed your other hungers, you have a wonderful opportunity to get to know yourself better. You can pay attention to those things in your life that aren’t quite right and that you’re trying to avoid by eating, and come up with real solutions. When you attend to those things, you’ll notice that the urge to eat when you aren’t hungry wanes and disappears.