Why are you eating?
In an ideal scenario we would eat when we were hungry, and stop when we were full but let’s be honest, such a simplistic approach to food is far from the reality in which most of us live. Rather we eat when we are happy. We eat when we are sad and for a myriad of reasons in between. So here are some of the most common reasons we find ourselves eating and some ways to help control non hungry eating.
You are bored
Boredom eating acts as a distraction, it gives us something to do and can be observed early in life when parents constantly offer young children snacks and treats rather than giving them the attention they are actually craving. The issue with eating when we are bored is that the food actually becomes the activity, as opposed to something more fulfilling and meaningful. As the satisfaction gained from eating when we are not hungry is short lived, if at all, it means we are still left bored and unsatisfied once the feasting is over. In this instance the best thing to do is to identify boredom as a specific experience, and seek out an activity that will actually satisfy you, as opposed to distracting with food temporarily.
You are tired
Whether it is reaching for a coffee, sweet drink or chocolately treat, one of the easiest ways to feel better, for a short time at least is to eat or drink something that contains sugar and or stimulants such as caffeine. The issue with relying on food and stimulants to boost your energy, is that any boost is short term, lasting an hour or two at most. In reality, the best things that you can eat when you are tired include fresh fruit and wholegrain carbohydrates which will help to give you a sustained energy release as well as a good dose of Vitamin B and drink plenty of water as dehydration is one of the most common reasons we feel tired and lethargic on a daily basis.
You are craving
Food cravings are interesting as in some cases they may be suggestive of nutritional deficiencies, while on the other they can merely be the result of poorly regulated blood glucose levels. Food cravings may also result from the habitual eating of certain foods in certain scenarios, for example, always enjoying a cup of tea with a sweet treat. Satisfying a food craving occasionally with a specific food is no issue, but cravings sweet, fatty and/ or salty foods regularly is suggestive of learnt eating behaviour which is can be also unlearnt once the link between an environment and a food type is identified and then broken.
You are watching everyone else eat
One of the most significant predictors of excessive food being consumed is other people eating in front of you. As humans, it appears we have difficulty abstaining when others are tucking in. Knowing this in itself can be a powerful tool in reminding you to decide if you are actually hungry before you eat. Sticking to eating only at meal times also creates a cognitive limit to help you self-regulate when food may be present but you know you do not really need to eat.
You are emotional
Once overeating is labeled as ‘emotional; it is as if it gives is permission to eat foods we never usually would and blame it on an external factor. When it comes to emotional eating there is a big difference between indulging in a burger or chocolate bar occasionally and binge eating entire packets of biscuits and tubs of ice-cream regularly and using ones’ emotions as the excuse. Emotional eating occasionally is normal but binge eating is a serious, clinical issue and needs treatment and long term management.