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Health and Fitness News

True or False Hunger

Learn to tell the difference so you only eat when you’re truly hungry.

People eat for a lot of different reasons. The most obvious reason is hunger, but you’ve probably found yourself eating when you aren’t truly hungry.

Maybe you find yourself eating when you’re bored, sad, stressed, or lonely. This habit, known as emotional eating, provides a boost to your mood, if only for a short time. Perhaps you struggle with binge eating and easily lose control over how much you eat. Once you start eating, you may be unable to stop until the food is gone or you feel sick. Or maybe you’ve just gotten into the habit of snacking and grazing mindlessly throughout the day. When food is in front of you, you help yourself because it tastes good and…why not?

You know you’d lose weight much easier if you only eat when you’re truly hungry. To work toward that end, here are six tips.

Tip 1: The Art of Distraction

Find yourself heading to the kitchen when you don’t have anything else to do? To avoid eating when you’re bored, distract yourself with something besides food. Get in the habit of doing a mini-workout in down time. Do five push-ups, five sit-ups, and five squats then see if you’re still hungry. Or, instead of eating, distract yourself by doing a word puzzle, playing a game on your phone, or tidying up a room.

Tip 2: Subtle Substitution

Sometimes, your mouth is bored, and food tastes good and gives your mouth something to do. Instead of eating, find some zero-calorie substitutes. Drink a glass of flavored ice water, chew a piece of sugar-free gum, or even brush your teeth. (Brushing your teeth is a great way to tell your mouth it’s time to stop eating for a while.)

Tip 3: Practice Hesitation

Before taking a bite, wait for five minutes. In the meantime, you can determine if you’re truly hungry. Remember that there are differences between emotional and physical hunger. Emotional hunger usually hits you suddenly, originates in your mind, makes you crave junk food, and isn’t truly satisfied by food. Physical hunger comes on gradually, is felt in your stomach, can be satisfied by any type of food, and is relieved when your belly is full.

Tip 4: Develop Inner Innovation

Eating may have been your go-to method for dealing with emotions, but it’s time to cultivate new habits. Instead of eating, call a friend, play with your dog, listen to music, take a bath, read a book, go on a walk, play an instrument, or paint a picture. The options are endless. Find what works for you.

Tip 5: Identify Your Hunger Association

If you can identify what triggers your emotional or mindless eating, you can prepare yourself to guard against it. When you head toward the snack cabinet or the break room at work, pause and think about why you want to eat. Is it a certain time of day, are you in a specific location, did someone say something to upset you, or did you see a picture that made you sad? You may find it helpful to define your eating times and locations. Make it your habit to eat only at the kitchen table and at set mealtimes each day.

Tip 6: Consider Deeper Exploration

Sometimes, the causes of emotional eating run deeper than you realize. Don’t be afraid to see a behavioral therapist to address your problems with overeating. A therapist is trained to help you identify your triggers, explore new and healthy ways of managing negative emotions, and keep you accountable for making new habits.