Food is always available, sitting there, waiting. We can always reach for it when we feel down, angry, sad, bored, anxious, or any other feeling that may be flying around at the time.

We know though, that if we eat when we aren’t even hungry, or eat non-nutritious foods rather than going for the healthy choice, that we will be sabotaging our own best interests.

We have weight loss goals that we are working diligently to achieve, however one bite can be our undoing, leading us into self-recrimination, guilt, regrets, a possible string of binges, and a downward spiral.

Why does it take only one bite to lead to our downfall? Well, if we could eat in moderation, then we likely would not be working to lose weight. 😉 You may be addicted to sugar, flour, and fat, (all of which can be fueling your overeating), and when you want to eat for emotional reasons, you aren’t usually reaching for carrots or brown rice.

If you do have food addictions and you are not eating your trigger foods and ingredients then you will have much fewer cravings, however you may still have times when out of habit (and other reasons), that you want to eat when not hungry.

Let’s look at some ways that you can divert yourself from going for food when it will only hurt your weight loss progress. Following are five suggestions that I have for you to consider acting on instead of reaching for food when you aren’t hungry:

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  1. Call a friend. If you aren’t hungry but you want to eat, what is bothering you? When you have a friend that you can talk to instead of turning to food, you will be focusing on the real issue rather than leaning on food to solve something that it cannot (and possibly giving you the added problem of overweight).
  2. Pull a diversion out of a hat. This idea came from a member in my weight loss support group. In preparation for times that you will want to reach for food rather than for physical hunger, write down at least 10 activities on small pieces of paper and fold them up.Put them in a jar or some such container, and when you find yourself craving food when you aren’t hungry, pull out a paper and do the activity. After 10 or 15 minutes, you will likely notice that your craving has passed and you have successfully diverted yourself from abusing food.

    Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

    • Get outside and go for a walk.
    • Pull some weeds (yeah, might not sound like fun but works for me…gives me a sense of accomplishment and works wonderfully as a diversion).
    • If at work, take a short break and get up from your desk. Walk around the building and get outside if possible to freshen up your mind and stretch your body.
    • Play a video game.
    • Read a book or a short story.
    • If you belong to an online support group, go there and give/get some support to others in your group.
    • Do a household task that will keep you busy, i.e.: dishes, laundry, cleaning, something to keep you occupied.
  3. These activities only need to be done for 10-15 minutes, 30 minutes at the most. If you still are craving food and you aren’t physically hungry, then you can always pull out another slip of paper. I tend to like activities that may seem more like chores because they keep me focused, but use whatever works for you, as long as it is something that will divert you and get your thoughts off of food.

  4. Write in a journal. There is some emotion, craving, issue, or pull (could be addiction, or habit) that is swinging your thoughts towards food. If you take 5 minutes and write down what you are feeling and thinking, you can discover exactly what is bothering you.
  5. I have often found that I do not know what is driving me towards food (when I am not physically hungry) until I write it out. My thoughts tend to move so fast that I must write down what I am feeling and/or thinking at the time that I want to reach for food for a quick fix. If I do not write it down, it is much easier for me to remain unconscious of what is bothering me and reach for food instead.

  6. Review your reasons for wanting to lose weight in the first place. In a previous post, I mentioned the importance of writing down your reasons to lose weight in order to maintain your focus on your goals. This would be a good time to pull out your 3×5 card and read it as many times as you need to. This will help you remember why you want to lose weight and stay on track.
  7. I realize this may sound funny (that you need to “remind” yourself why you want to lose weight), however I have found that in the “heat of the moment”, when I want to eat and/or overeat for reasons other than physical hunger, that my thought process becomes irrational and I completely forget why I am following a weight loss plan. All I can think about is what I want right now. Have you experienced this? Afterwards (if I give in), then I think “why did I do that, I’m just sabotaging my own efforts to lose weight!”

    It truly does help to short-circuit your thought process at those times when you want immediate gratification (by using food), and remember why you are following a weight loss plan in the first place.

  8. Brush your teeth and/or take a shower (or bath). I have found that brushing my teeth when I am craving food helps to freshen up my outlook. The act of bathing is even better, although this may not be as easy an option for you, depending are where you are at the time. A toothbrush and toothpaste is extremely easy to carry with you anywhere, and you can take a break during at work to brush.
  9. If you are home when a strong craving hits, it helps tremendously to jump in the shower. First of all, it will take you 10-20 minutes (depending on how quick you are), which is an excellent diversionary tactic. It is also highly unlikely that you would eat while showering!

    While showering, visualize how you will look once you get to your goal weight to get your mind aligned with your goals and off of food. Visualize all of the activities that you may not feel comfortable doing at your present weight, such as swimming in public, riding a bike, socializing, any activity that you currently do not participate in because of your weight. See yourself active and healthy with boundless energy, ready for anything in life. Feel all of the good feelings that you associate with being fit and healthy and imagine yourself this way now.

There are many more actions that can be used as diversions to avoid eating when you are not hungry. You can use any of the above ideas, or completely different ones that you come up with. The point is that you have your options planned out ahead of time, and know what you will do when the time comes that you want to eat and you aren’t experiencing physical hunger.

It’s also important to remember that you don’t want to use a diversion that will sabotage you in some other way, such as impulse shopping, or marathon TV watching. It’s best to use diversions that you will benefit from and either accomplish tasks that you may have been putting off, or fun, non-food related activities that you and your family will enjoy.

I don’t think that I am alone in how all logical thought flies out the window and I tend to forget why I want to lose weight when all I can think about is the quick fix of food. If I am alone in this, then I hope that you can gain other benefits from this post. 🙂

Remember, if you plan for success, you are planning to succeed. Get your plan of action ready for those times when it is so easy to derail yourself from your weight loss goals so that you have other routes to take instead of eating. You will thank yourself after the craving for food has passed and you have successfully diverted yourself instead of giving in to the desire for a quick food fix.

5 Actions to Take to Avoid Eating when Not Hungry

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