Why Do I Eat When I'm Not Hungry?

snacking habits
Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

It's a problem that almost all of us share - we eat when we don't need to. And the extra calories add up quickly, sometimes adding pounds of weight over the course of a year.  So what's the best way to curb unnecessary snacking?  The first step is to discover the cause.

Common Reasons for Unnecessary Eating

These are some of the most common reasons that you might eat when you’re not hungry. Use the solutions to help curb your habit.

  • Boredom. We often head to the refrigerator when we need something to do. At work, you might head to the break room to see if treats are available when you are trying to avoid work. Instead, go chat with a coworker, do an easy mini-workout, or keep a book of puzzles handy and challenge your brain for 5 minutes.
  • Need for Taste. The desire to taste something is a variation of boredom eating. The best solution? Grab a piece of sugar-free gum or brush your teeth. Minty flavors help kill cravings. You can also grab a glass of homemade flavored water (yum!).
  • Nervous Energy. Sometimes we’re in social situations and we eat because it’s the most comfortable thing to do or because we’re nervous. Solution? Stand away from the food. Then you won’t be tempted to dip into the chip bowl or grab for cheese treats instead of meeting new people.
  • Emotional Comfort. Food fills an emotional void for many people. If this is the reason that you eat when you’re not hungry, you have a few options to curb the habit. First, try replacing the snack habit with a healthy habit. Many experts recommend physical activity like going for a walk or a quick yoga break because those activities can help curb negative thinking. If that doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to work with a behavioral therapist to address emotional barriers to weight loss. Many therapists are specifically trained to help clients with eating issues.
  • Habit. Your mindless eating habit may have started as boredom, but once you start visiting the refrigerator every day at 3pm, your body starts to expect food at 3pm. Solution? The next time that you wander to the refrigerator or to the snack tray, ask yourself why. If the answer doesn’t include the word “hunger,” go for a walk or call a friend instead. You’ll end up replacing the old habit with a healthy new one.

    Remember that moderate nibbling is good for you as long as you don’t consume too many calories from snacks. But eating when you’re not hungry or when you don’t need to can derail your diet or cause weight gain. Of course, you should never wait until you are starving before you eat, either. Try to eat moderate portions at at regular intervals throughout the day to stay satisfied all day long and avoid mindless eating, binge eating or eating foods that aren’t good for your diet.

    Continue Reading