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 we work with, you’ll quickly realize there are a lot of times you want to eat even though there are no physical signs of hunger.

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’re 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 you don’t let yourself do other things even when 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:

  1. Eat anyway
  2. Redirect your attention
  3. Meet your true needs

Consider the pros and cons of each choice

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

Option 1: Eat Anyway

Advantages:

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

Disadvantages:

  • Causes the discomfort of feeling too full and sluggish.
  • You may feel regretful afterward. There’s no reason to feel guilty though; you’re 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

Advantages:

  • When you take your mind off the food for a little while, the urge often passes.
  • You’ll eventually become hungry then 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.

Disadvantages:

  • Requires a little forethought and preparation so you’re ready with appealing things to do in place of eating.
  • If the trigger was an emotional need, redirecting your attention may not meet your true needs. 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 to eat came from then meeting your underlying needs. 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’s simply a matter of recognizing 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.

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 curiosity 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 a physical, environmental, or emotional trigger?
  3. Come up with a few ideas about how you might respond differently next time.

Hungry for More?

Do you struggle with binge eating? Take the Binge Eating Scale here.

Our book for binge eating, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating: A Mindful Eating Program for Healing Your Relationship with Food and Your Body will teach you new strategies for coping with the real reasons you eat. 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, it is highly recommend 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 “Redirection 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 as a food-free self-care zone that is 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