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  • Deanne Pandey

Are you really hungry?

Have you ever found yourself eating even when you’re not hungry? Snacking or nibbling on your favourite food despite being completely full? When a commercial comes on advertising a juicy bacon cheeseburger, it’s hard not to start salivating. Or maybe you keep thinking about the cookies you have stored in the pantry and to remind yourself that no, you don’t need two (or three) of the sweet, chocolaty treats. Eating when you’re not hungry has a numbing effect on the body. Our brain chemicals changes and we feel calmer and more relaxed. After overeating, it is easy to tune out the world. In the short term this can feel really good – especially if life is stressful or chaotic. But if our physical and mental health suffers from eating when we are not hungry, we are simply adding to our problems.

Knowing when you’re actually hungry and when your mind is just playing tricks on you can be a huge challenge. People have long dealt with temptations to eat, but these days it’s even harder to resist those urges now that we can order delivery of pizza or wings with just the push of a button on smart-phone apps.

One way to do this is with a food diary. By keeping a food diary, you’ll be forced to recognize your eating patterns – both good and bad. For instance, you may see that you always reach for a handful of candy for an afternoon pick-me-up or that you order pizza for every movie night. Your nutritional needs can also vary day to day, depending on whether you did an at home workout that morning or sat on your couch binge-watching crime documentaries all day. The key is to listen to – and try to understand – your body’s communication and hunger signals.

Turning down tempting food is much easier if you never actually have to say no. This doesn’t mean frantically running away the moment someone offers you a slice of cake. It means planning ahead for eating triggers that you find particularly challenging to resist. For instance, do you always snack on food while you're watching your favorite movie at home? Opt for a healthy snack, perhaps an apple or nuts to munch on. Or do you find yourself making frequent refrigerator visits? Water with lemon is a great way to suppress your appetite to help encourage you to wait for full meals.

If you can’t completely avoid it, try to prepare with a healthier option. If you find yourself stress-eating after work each day, have a healthy go-to snack ready, such as veggies and dip or a handful of nuts. Habits take time to develop, and it’s important to be patient with yourself as you adapt to a healthier lifestyle. Be patient with yourself – and your body – as you adjust. Over time, you’ll learn to understand your body a little more each day. Be sure to recognize each time you do listen effectively, and celebrate your success.

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