Some things can make us feel hungry, but do we really need to eat? Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between hungry and non-hungry eating. Real hunger cues could be occurring, or you may have missed a few hours sleep, be trying to distract yourself from another task, or might even just be thirsty. If you take the time to mindfully think about how you’re feeling, you might realise you weren’t hungry at all. Here are some tips to avoid non-hungry eating.
- Go for a walk, run, or do some form of exercise. Getting active is a fantastic way to increase your energy if you’re feeling lethargic. It boosts those feel-good endorphins and can improve digestion too! If you have the time to do a small amount of exercise, do it. Especially in between meal times when you have the chance.
- Stay hydrated! A lot of the time, we are thirsty, not hungry! Try and drink a consistent amount of water throughout the day. If you’re craving something, have a glass of water and wait 20 minutes. Those “feelings” may go away after your body has started to rehydrate.
- Watch your sugar intake. If your last meal or snack contained simple sugars such as fruit juices or lollies, your blood sugar levels might have risen very high very quickly, and now be dropping. This means you are not necessarily hungry, but your body is going through an energy “slump”. Try and maintain consistent blood sugar levels by consuming a serving of complex carbohydrates like grainy breads, oats and grains at every meal.
- Protein, protein, and more protein. Protein sources such as lean meats, fish, legumes, eggs and dairy can help us feel fuller for longer. Having protein at every meal can assist in recognising fullness and knowing when real hunger hits.
- Talk to someone. Emotional eating is very common, and is when someone turns to food for comfort when another aspect of life is causing significant stress. It is only a very short-term solution, and it can be difficult to lose weight, or maintain weight if it is done too often. If you feel comfortable, confiding in a friend, family member or a counsellor can help with working through a problem, and working on your emotional relationship with food. Your dietitian can also help with this type of non-hungry eating, with strategies specific to your lifestyle that can help with recognising hunger signals.