We’ve all done it, and sometimes we don’t even realize when it’s happening: We have all eaten something when we weren’t actually hungry. And while that’s OK from time to time, too much eating without thinking can really hurt your weight-loss goals (and possibly your health).
Take a look at these 10 situations that encourage you to eat when you’re not hungry…and how to solve them!
1. To Cope
Happy? You might eat a treat to celebrate. Sad? You might eat to soothe yourself. It may help to track your eating habits in a journal, noting your emotional state when you headed for that snack. Writing it down may help you make a connection you hadn’t seen before, like the fact that you eat when you’re lonely or angry.
2. Out of Boredom
For many people, eating seems like a good solution when there’s nothing better to do–whether you graze at home on the weekends or entertain yourself with lavish dinners out. If you know boredom is a trigger for your eating, have a list of strategies in place to keep yourself busy: Catch up with an old friend, write an old-fashioned snail-mail letter, write in your blog, read, or workout! Eating won’t seem as appealing if you have a fun alternative to keep yourself occupied!
3. Because Other People Are Eating
It’s easy to indulge when others around you are eating, too. Research shows that our habits mimic our companions’ actions in situations like these. You don’t have to swear off happy hour with friends to watch your weight though. When your dining companions devour a second basket of bread or chips, or order dessert, don’t automatically follow suit. Check in with your hunger level to see if you really need it to be satisfied with the fun conversation.
4. Because Food is There
Whether it’s party food or an office candy jar, when food is in plain sight, it can be too easy to grab. If you’re unable to nix the trigger food altogether, move the treats out of sight—you’ll be less likely to grab a handful. So if you buy a bag of Oreos, put them on a high shelf in a cabinet—not on the counter. Instead of a clear candy jar, try an opaque one or move it to another location. When you’re already full and food is out at a party, stand with your back to the table or in another room.
5. Because You’re Tired
The dreaded afternoon energy lull can drive even the most disciplined of us to food—especially sugary treats. But that sugar rush might be followed by an even worse crash. Instead, take a walk around the office, head outside for some rejuvenating natural light, or drink a cup of coffee or a tall glass of cold water. A change of scenery might be just the ticket to battle the afternoon lull.
6. Because the Clock Says So
Do you pull out your lunchbox when the clock strikes noon, just because it’s time for lunch? Or head to the kitchen at 6 p.m. just because that’s your typical dinnertime? Don’t just eat when the clock tells you to! When mealtime hits, use it as a cue to check in with your current hunger level. Are you actually hungry? If so, whip up that healthy meal. If not, wait until your body tells you to eat, and ignore the clock.
7. Because It’s Free (Or Cheap)
Everyone loves to get a good deal. But don’t eat up just because something is free (think free samples at the grocery store) or super cheap (buy-one-get-one-free sodas or all-you-can-eat buffets). Always check in with your body’s hunger level before you automatically fill your plate with a freebie.
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