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Why do I want to eat when I'm not hungry?

Tori  Holthaus, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
"Hunger" is what happens when you're truly stomach-hungry -- when you physiologically need food -- and it's different than "appetite," which is what happens when you're more "mind-hungry."  We've all experienced signs of hunger - your belly growls, you may become light headed, or even shaky and dizzy. And we've all experienced appetite, too. It's a normal brain signal our bodies give us after smelling fresh cookies out of the oven, hearing someone say the words cherry pie, or the desire to eat more of the bag of x, y, or z even after your stomach is satisfied.

In situations where appetite is a key factor, consider the N.O.W. technique: Do you need the food to physiologically provide energy and nutrition or do you simply want the food? If it's a want, let your "want" become a "wait."  Drink a glass of water, take a walk, read a book, call a friend.  Wait to eat until it's your stomach telling you it's time to eat instead of your appetite!
 
Laura Katleman-Prue
Nutrition & Dietetics
If you notice an urge to eat something when you're not hungry, you're probably involved in a story -- something negative that the mind is telling you about yourself, life, others, or something you're doing. At those moments, you're arguing with reality, resisting the way life is showing up. Some examples of typical stories you may be running prior to an urge to attack the cookie jar are:
  • I'm bored.
  • I don't want to do this project.
  • I screwed things up again.
  • I don't want to make this phone call that I'm supposed to make.
  • I hate filing.
  • I can't face the piles of work on my desk.
  • Time to balance my checkbook again.
Skinny Thinking: Five Revolutionary Steps to Permanently Heal Your Relationship With Food, Weight, and Your Body

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If you've ever blamed your bones for your weight -- "I'm just big-boned" -- you may be onto something. In this video, Dr. Oz explains how your bones can signal you to keep eating, even when you're full.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.