Stop Eating When You're Not Hungry

Simple strategies can help you overcome overeating

By John Casey
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson, MD

You may not be aware of it, but you have a relationship with food. We all do, food experts say, and as with all relationships, there are good things about it and bad things, too. Eating when we're not hungry is one of those bad things that come with living in an environment that is superabundant in food.

One of the main reasons we eat when we're not hungry is because we sometimes use food to shield ourselves from uncomfortable feelings, says David Katz, MD, MPH, director of the Prevention Research Center at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. "People eat sometimes to get relief from boredom, depression, anxiety, loneliness, stress, and other moods," he says.

Often, the foods we reach for first in times of stress are "comfort foods that our mothers used to soothe the scraped knee or tender ego," says WebMD Weight Loss Clinic Dietitian Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD. "If we don't reach for comfort foods, we tend to reach for alcohol, sweets, and savory foods that tend to be high in fats, sugar, and calories."

Track Your Triggers

A big part of weight management "is recognizing these mechanisms and applying skills and strategies to address the difference between the need to eat and the desire to eat," says Katz, author of The Way to Eat, which was co-published with the American Dietetic Association.

How do you begin to recognize these mechanisms?

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