If you’ve ever found yourself standing, staring into the fridge not knowing what to eat, chances are you’re about to engage in non-hungry eating. While it’s a term you might not be familiar with, non-hungry eating is something we all do, some of us on a daily basis.
What is non-hungry eating?
Non-hungry eating is the eating we do for any reason other than hunger. It could be boredom, it could be emotional eating or it could simply be eating for the pleasure of it. Non-hungry eating isn’t good or bad. It’s a normal part of healthy eating. However, if it starts to become a regular occurrence is can lead to problems like overeating, unwanted weight gain and increase the risk of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular (heart) disease.
Why we’re non-hungry eating more during COVID-19
COVID-19 (coronavirus) has changed the way we work. More of us are working from home than ever before, we’re out of our normal routine, we’re missing our workmates and we have unrestricted access to the fridge and pantry. We’re also feeling understandably worried about the future and we’re bored because we can’t get out and about like we used to. So it’s no surprise non-hungry eating is something we’re doing a lot more of. There are ways to control non-hungry eating even while you’re out of your normal routine. Here are three simple things to try.
Understand what hunger is and where it comes from
Hunger can be psychological (coming from your mind) or physiological (coming from your body). Physiological hunger comes on gradually and is a sign from our body telling us that we need nourishing ie fuel. It’s usually associated with an indication like a rumbling tummy. Psychological hunger can come on rapidly and may present as a craving for a particular food. This sort of “hunger” is usually triggered by something such as boredom or stress, it may also be known as emotional eating.
Try this: Before you eat ask yourself, am I really feeling hungry or is it something else?
Avoid eating while you’re distracted
If we eat while we’re distracted, we aren’t paying attention to the cues our body is sending us and we can eat past the point of fullness (non-hungry eating again). We may also be missing out on some of the enjoyment of eating. When we’re engaged in eating we often feel satiated (full) earlier. Think about a time when you’ve eaten a meal slowly without distraction or rushing, chances are you ate less and were more satisfied with the meal.
Try this: Practice mindful eating. Eat at the table away from distractions like TV, your desk or your workspace. Take your time and really enjoy your meal. Head outside for a bit of sunshine if you can.
Manage hunger and fullness levels across the day
If you’re feeling high levels of hunger or fullness across the day, it’s likely your eating patterns aren’t balanced. Regular meal patterns can help you to get back in check with your body’s natural (physiological) hunger cues and avoid non-hungry eating.
Try this: If you’re working from home due to COVID-19 keep to your usual work routine as much as possible. Keep mealtimes to a similar schedule and plan meals for the day to keep you keep on track. This could be as simple as prepping leftovers for lunch or making lunch the night before.
We hope these ideas will help you become more aware of the triggers, other than hunger, that make you want to eat and more in tune with the healthy signals your body sends you when you’re hungry and when you’re full. Remember, non-hungry eating isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, it’s part of healthy eating; it’s about finding the right balance for overall good health.
If you have questions or think you may need more personalised advice our trained dietitians can help.