Emma had kicked the diet mentality and was so happy to say goodbye to white-knuckling another new “best diet”. Groan. She’d found life so much better now that she’d made peace with all the lovely food in the world… cupcakes with chocolate frosting, yummy!
But Emma was still having trouble sorting out the hunger part – she’d overeat sometimes and she know that she was overeating, because she was eating when she wasn’t even hungry.
“Why do I do that? Why do I eat when I’m not even physically hungry?”
I know how Emma feels. I remember one day I was feeling really annoyed with the world (okay, not the world, just my kids), and so I knowingly and willingly walked from the lounge to my kitchen to see what foodie things I might discover. I had a fair idea what I’d find, but I was pretending to surprise myself. Anyway, to my absolute delight I discovered some Turkish delight (side note: I love Turkish delight).
So I willingly took that Turkish delight, unwrapped it, and took a bite and then another, even though I wasn’t hungry. I was annoyed. And before you know it, I’d eaten the whole (little, darn it) piece.
Did I feel better? Not really. But I did enjoy the Turkish Delight. It was a momentary flash of delight (see how I did that?) in what was otherwise a pretty annoying day.
When we’re hungry – eating serves the purpose of meeting our needs for more energy and nutrients.
But even when we’re NOT hungry – eating still serves a purpose. It’s just that the purpose may not be clear to you yet.
Sometimes we eat as part of a celebration. We might have a piece of cake at a friend’s birthday party, even though we’re not hungry. But by joining in and eating that piece of cake, we’re sharing in the celebrations with our friend.
When you’re relatively new to intuitive eating, you might eat past full quite often. Because frankly the novelty of being able to eat whatever-the-heck-you-like still hasn’t worn off… sigh. If that’s the case, the best thing you can do is not judge yourself. Ride with it and let your body experience the freedom of being able to eat when it wants.
With time you’ll notice that you’re more often able to stop at a pleasant point of fullness, as you learn to trust that you can eat again when you want and need to.
Other times you might find yourself eating and you have NO idea why you’re doing it – you’re not hungry, you’re not celebrating, you have no idea why you’re eating.
So what the heck is going on? And how do you work out why you’re eating?
If you’ve got a long (long) history of dieting (or even a short history), there’s a good chance when you’re eating in the absence of hunger you’re doing it to cope with emotions.
Maybe you’re thinking – “Hmm, I’m not sure I’m eating for emotional reasons… I just eat when I’m not hungry and I don’t know why.”
But it can be as plain and simple as eating out of boredom – let’s be honest, eating is a fun way to distract yourself from the boredom of life, folding washing and doing dishes, right? (ask me how I know this, ahem).
Many of us use eating as a way to manage or escape emotions, especially difficult emotions like sadness, frustration, anger, loneliness and shame. It’s a way to numb your feelings and it works really well (which, by the way, is why we keep doing it).
So – if you have:
a) good self-care practices, so you’re giving yourself the best possible chance of tuning in to your hunger and fullness cues AND,
b) you’ve given yourself plenty of time to learn intuitive eating and settle past the novelty stage of wanting to overeat AND,
It may be time to reflect on whether there are some unidentified emotional needs underlying your eating habits. Basically, something underneath the surface that is screaming for your attention (it’s your ‘self’ saying, “Argh! Help me!”) whether that’s boredom or anger or sadness, it’s time for you to connect with the inner you and find out.
Check out the emotions wheel for a fantastically helpful list of many different emotions and how they all link back to the core basic emotions.