As you learned in the previous lesson, whenever you have an urge to eat, ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” If you’re like most people that we work with, you’ll quickly realize that there are a lot of times you want to eat even though there are no physical signs of hunger.

Remember, you’re in charge of what you do next.

One of the most important ways that mindful eating is different from dieting is that by increasing your awareness, you can choose your actions. You are no longer dependent on outside sources for rules about when, what, and how much to eat.

Notice how different that is from trying to stay in control. Being “in control” means you do things even when you don’t want to and that you don’t let yourself do other things even if you really want to. Control is what you need to follow the rules of a diet. Being “in charge” means you get to make choices.

I’m NOT Hungry – What Now?

If you want to eat but you aren’t hungry, you have three choices: eat anyway, redirect your attention, or become aware of what triggered your desire to eat and address that need instead.

Consider the pros and cons of each choice

When you’re in charge, all of these options are acceptable once you understand and have considered the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Option 1: Eat Anyway


  • It’s easy since you’ve done it many times before.
  • Might give you temporary pleasure or satisfaction.


  • Causes the discomfort of feeling too full and sluggish.
  • You may feel regretful afterward (no reason to feel guilty though. You are in charge and it was simply a choice you made this time).
  • When you eat food your body didn’t ask for, it has no choice but to store it.

Option 2: Redirect Your Attention


  • When you get your mind off the food for a little while, the urge will likely pass.
  • You’ll eventually get hungry and then you’ll enjoy eating even more.
  • Helps you break the link between certain triggers and the urge to eat.
  • Great strategy if the urge to eat was caused by boredom or a trigger in your environment, like a plate of holiday treats.


  • Requires a little forethought and preparation so you’re ready with appealing things to do in place of eating.
  • May not meet your true needs if the trigger was an emotional need. Therefore, the trigger may come back again and again.

Which brings us to your third option.

Option 3: Meet Your True Needs

This means figuring out where the urge came from and dealing with that trigger instead of eating. This is the most challenging option – but also the most satisfying! Not surprisingly, identifying and meeting your true needs leads to the best long-term results.

Think Direction, Not Perfection!

When you feel like eating but you aren’t hungry, it isn’t necessary to make a perfect choice every time. It is simply a matter of recognizing that you have options and taking small steps toward meeting your true needs. You won’t have to control your eating because you’ll be in charge of your life.

Feast for the Eyes

Watch this two minute clip of Workshop 3: It’s Not About the Food from the Am I Hungry? Self-Paced Program to see why the freedom to make choices for yourself is the key to breaking your eat-repent-repeat cycle.

Food for Thought

The simplest definition of mindfulness is awareness. Awareness of what you’re doing is the first step to changing your behaviors so thought and reflection are an important part of this process. Take a few moments to consider your answers to the following questions. It may be helpful to write out your thoughts so you can reflect on them later.

  1. Reflect on a time when you felt like eating when you weren’t hungry.
  2. Try to identify possible triggers. Was there some physical, environmental, or emotional trigger?
  3. Come up with a few ideas about how you might have been able to respond differently.

Hungry for More?

Learning new strategies for coping with the real reasons you eat is the focus of our newest book, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating: A Mindful Eating Program for Healing Your Relationship with Food and Your Body.  It covers topics including tough issues like negative thoughts, emotional eating, stress, relationships, body image, and meeting your true needs. Even if you don’t have a diagnosis of BED, I highly recommend it for people who want to address their triggers in more effective ways than eating.

Recipe for Success

  1. Notice when you feel like eating without any signs of physical hunger.
  2. When you recognize a desire to eat caused by a trigger other than true hunger, consider your options: eat anyway, redirect your attention, or meet your true need.
  3. Download our list of 101 Things To Do Besides Eat. Highlight those that appeal to you and add some of your own. Try to choose activities that are enjoyable, available, and preferably, eating incompatible.
  4. Prepare yourself for these moments by creating a “Distraction Kit” or drawer with everything you need to divert your attention away from eating.
  5. Try establishing a specific area in your home or office that is food-free and perfect for just for these moments.

Ready for your next helping?

Click here when you are ready to move on to the Fourth Course: Head Hunger.

Back for seconds? Click below to review previous lessons:

First Course: In Charge, Not In Control
Second Course: Trust Your Body Wisdom