Do you sometimes confuse “head hunger” with physical hunger?

If you’re sensitive to food cues, it’s essential to learn to recognize the triggers in your environment and break the associations that lead you to overeat simply out of habit.

Recognizing Head Hunger

Let’s look at just a few of the many common triggers for overeating and strategies for coping more effectively.

Eating by the clockIt’s About Time

Society programs us to follow a schedule, so like Pavlov’s dog, you may have learned to salivate when the bell rings. The reality is that it’s more convenient to eat at certain times than others, so it takes effort to listen to your hunger cues.

Though it’s challenging to change this routine, you can learn to pace yourself by using your natural hunger rhythms. You’ll probably notice you get hungry every 3-6 hours depending on what and how much you ate at your last meal.

  • Keep a snack handy to satisfy hunger that doesn’t fit in with mealtimes.
  • If you always want a snack right before a meal, move the mealtime up, or experiment with different foods, like protein, at the earlier meal.
  • And remember, if you’re only a little bit hungry, you only need a little bit of food. If you’re not very hungry, you don’t have to eat a whole plateful just because it’s mealtime.

Sweet Temptation

Seeing displays of food like candy or nuts in dishes and tempting foods when you open your cabinet or refrigerator can trigger you to want those foods.

If you are “food suggestible,” remember, out of sight, out of mind.

  • Avoid using food as decorations or leaving appetizing foods laying in plain view.
  • Try putting tempting foods behind other foods in your cabinets and refrigerator.
  • If a co-worker keeps food out, politely ask them to keep it in a drawer instead.

Forbidden Food

The mere thought of a diet can trigger feelings of deprivation and cravings. Just thinking about restrictive dieting has been shown to increase food intake.

  • Cut down on the amount of time you spend talking about food, weight, and dieting.
  • Learn the mindful eating strategies we use in Am I Hungry? to help you learn to recognize and trust your physical hunger cues to let you know when it’s time to eat.

What’s Eating You?

Emotions are common triggers for eating. Food you eat to deal with feelings comes with strings attached, namely discomfort and regret. Most important, eating does not adequately meet your emotional needs and those unmet needs will trigger overeating again and again.

Boredom, anger, anxiety, and other feelings are a natural part of your life and eating won’t make them go away.

  • Remember, eating to cope with your emotions disconnects you from important information and interferes with your ability to discover and satisfy your true needs.
  • There are dozens of additional triggers that we cover in our books and workshops. Once you’ve identified the emotions that triggered the urge to eat, we’ll show you more effective ways to comfort, nurture, calm, and distract yourself without turning to food.

Break free of habits that are no longer working for you!

By learning to recognize and decrease your head hunger, you’ll break out of your old habits. You’ll find yourself eating less, feeling more satisfied, and meeting your needs more effectively.

This leads to a healthier body, mind, heart, and spirit!

Food for Thought

The simplest definition of mindfulness is awareness, 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.

  1. Write down at least three of your triggers for overeating.
  2. Next, write down at least three possible strategies for dealing with each of your triggers.
  3. Make sure your ideas are practical and appealing and experiment with them the next time you become aware of a trigger.

Recipe for Success

  1. Start to make note of the times you are confusing physical hunger with “head hunger”
  2. When you recognize that an urge to eat was caused by a trigger rather than true hunger, see if you can identify the specific trigger (environmental? emotional?)

Hungry for More?

Congratulations! You’ve experience four small tastes of the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Program. I hope you’ve started to realize the potential impact of relearning to trust your body and how important it is to address your triggers for overeating.

I know you’re experienced enough to know that there’s no quick fix. With our other new skills and strategies (and we have MANY more new skills and strategies to teach you), you can overcome chaotic eating and chronic dieting.

You just need the tools to help you do it and that’s why we’re here to guide you. Here are five options for learning to eat mindfully:

Mindful eating books and workbooks by Michelle May, M.D.
Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Workshops and Webinars
Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Support Community
Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Self-Paced Programs
Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Retreats

I am confident that the Am I Hungry? approach to mindful eating will change the way you manage your eating forever!

Click here if you’re ready to take charge of your eating!

Back for seconds? Click below to review previous lessons:

Course 1: In Charge, Not In Control
Course 2: Trust Your Body Wisdom
Course 3: It’s Not About the Food