You’re home and bored. There must be something to do. Look around. On the counter, you see a bag of opened chips. You are not really hungry, but so what!  Boredom gets the best of you and you reach for the bag. A few minutes later, you have polished off the entire bag and you weren’t really hungry. Yes, it’s another episode of mindless eating. Guilt sets in and you decide it’s time for a change.

A starting point to break the habit of emotional or mindless eating is knowing the difference between physical hunger and emotional cravings. This may help you understand difference. It is taken from my book, Press Pause Before You Eat.

Physical Hunger
Builds gradually
Stomach rumbles and grumbles
Feel full and stop eating
Any food will satisfy
Physically feel empty
Eat and feel better
Choose foods purposely
Emotional Craving
Hits suddenly, “I just want something.”
Anxious but no physical symptoms
Eat when full
Want a specific food or type (salty, etc.)
Mouth and mind are tasting the food
Eat and feel guilty
Eat whatever is there

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Once you know the difference, press pause and ask, “Do I really want this food or am I eating for other reasons?” The pause may be enough to delay the impulse to eat.

If the pause isn’t enough, try to distract yourself. Leave the room, go for a walk, read a book or do something to get your mind off the food. Then notice…did your “hunger” go away? If yes, it was a craving and not real hunger.

Now let’s say, you still want the chips. You see them sitting on the counter calling your name. Drink some water, put a few chips in a bowl and put the bag away. Then, slowly eat the few chips in your bowl. Enjoy every bite! This should satisfy the craving.

So, when the urge to eat hits, first determine if you are hungry. If the answer is no, it’s most likely a craving that can be managed by pausing, distraction or eating a small amount.

Mindless Eating