Eating Just to Eat: Even When You're Not Hungry
Without being hungry, we may enjoy an afternoon snack with the kids. Maybe our spouse makes some chips and cheese during the Monday night football game, and offers to share. Perhaps your co-worker brings in donuts, and they're your favorite. What about the times when we're feeling bored, lonely, anxious, depressed or angry and we eat to make ourselves feel better. Most of us have eaten when we weren't hungry. The reasons, or excuses, are countless. The results are all the same. We're adding extra calories into our day, by basically "feeding our emotions". More often, than not, our food choices are probably not the most healthy, either. The questions we need to be asking ourselves are: Why do we eat when we're not hungry? And, how can we avoid this behavior in the future?
It's been estimated that 75% of overeating can be attributed to our emotions. "Instead of the physical symptom of hunger initiating the eating, an emotion triggers the eating," according to Jane Jakubczak, a registered dietitian at the University of Maryland. If we've had a bad day, or we're under a lot of stress we might eat. A breakup with a significant other may cause us to devour a quart of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. We eat to try to make ourselves feel better, instead of dealing with the emotions that we're feeling. Giving in to our emotions, too often, can have a drastic effect on our weight, and more importantly, on our well-being.
Situational and Social Eating
Situational eating may be best described with examples. During a trip to the movies, you order popcorn. While enjoying a baseball game, you eat a hot dog and pretzel. A food commercial comes on TV, and you venture out to the kitchen and scrounge around in your refrigerator for something equally tasty. While walking by a fast food business, the smell draws you in and you order a burger, large fries with a large "diet" pop. Basically, you wouldn't be eating if the situation hadn't presented itself to you. Social eating comes into play when you are surrounded by people (or at least one other person) who are eating and they want you to join in. You wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, so you grab up a chocolate covered, cream-filled, long john and a cappuccino and dive right in.
Recognize Your Triggers
Now that you're aware that you're sabotaging yourself, you can be prepared so it won't happen anymore, or at least as often. You may find that keeping a food diary will benefit you. Record all of the foods that you ate, when and where you ate them, and most importantly, why you ate them. When you notice a pattern as to why you're eating the way you do, you can work to put an end to it. If comfort foods are calling you, try to find comfort in other people or places. Call a friend and share the stressful events with them, instead of that giant bag of potato chips. Go for a walk, or a bike ride, or anywhere…besides the kitchen. The only time eating will ever solve your problems is when you're truly hungry. Any other time, the food is only being used as a mask. Until you are able to conquer emotional eating, try to keep healthy snacks around. That way if you do give in to eating due to emotions or circumstances, you won't do as much damage, and you can feel happy that it was only carrots and not cheesecake.