3 Reasons Why You Are Eating Without Feeling Hungry

And what to do about it!

Child eating cake and digging head into it

So today I want to discuss three reasons why you are being driven to eat without feeling hungry, whether you are starting to eat without physiological hunger and/or not stopping your eating when you’re comfortably satiated.

Remembering that eating without hunger is simply the only reason for weight gain or impediment to weight loss — and goes far beyond the food itself. That is, it is simple math (energy input and output), but in the equation, there are several other variables.

What are these reasons?

#1 The Diet Logic

With diet logic, there are many different lines of thought, among them:

Among many others.

In all cases, a dilemma arises in your head each time you want to eat something “forbidden”, or something that you interpret as going to harm your weight loss.

Looking to read more about the diet logic and the “bad food” mentality? Check out this article too!

In such cases, when you give in to desire and eat what you want, you feel overwhelmed with disappointment, guilt, and shame, and a strong desire to undo the damage.

But … only tomorrow (or next Monday, or the next waning moon) — according to whatever perfectly magical moment you set in order to resume your plan.

A bowl of Lindt chocolates

So following the diet logic…

Since you’ve eaten five mini chocolates, the only logical thing to do is to finish the whole package. It makes no sense to stop in the middle of the box.

You need to wait for the “formal moment” to start over.

(Wait = eat everything you were deprived of eating, especially with complete neglect of hunger/satiety signs)

This waiting can last a night, a week, a month or more. This is usually when people mostly eat without hunger and gain more weight, especially if they are rebounding after a diet. The certainty that the life of deprivation will soon resume takes away any logic from the equation.

What to do about it: Defy diet logic, be rational. No single meal or excess can spoil your progress. Falling is part of the process, staying on the floor is a choice.

The second reason why you may be eating without hunger is:

#2 Food Restriction and Rules

Diets are invariably based on restrictions and rules. In should’s and shouldn’t.

So dieting (maybe for most of your life) teaches you to (chronically) ignore your hunger and satiety signals. This can cause you to become obsessed with food when you are not physically hungry, and it urges you to eat nonstop when you break a rule.

The severe restriction and the prison of the dietary rules create something called a natural response to deprivation.

A real example can help you understand this concept. Imagine that you spent a full minute holding your breath underwater. When you came back to the surface, do you believe you would breathe normally?

Certainly, you would breathe desperately, panting, much more air than you would normally need to maintain oxygenation in your body.

That is the same answer we have to food deprivation. It is a physical and psychological compensation for the lack of something essential for survival.

When you give in to food (have access to air), it is almost impossible to control or stop. It’s your body showing you that it can hurt you.

A table with many food selections of pizza, crepes, avocado toast, burgers

This is why when you “fall off the diet wagon” you feel that there is no tomorrow. Knowing that tomorrow everything will be forbidden again is like knowing that you will be out of breath again.

What to do about it: Nourish your body abundantly with nutrient-rich foods, respect your hunger and appetite and abandon bans, making sure that you can “breathe” whenever you want.

Lastly, the last big reason why you are eating without hunger is:

#3 Emotional Hunger

Simply put, food is a way of modulating your emotional state. It can bring comfort, relief, calm, peace and warmth. It accompanies moments of joy and sadness, health and disease. It is a gateway to personal havens or hells.

See, the problem is not using food to change how you feel. It is human and normal for this to happen eventually. But doing so constantly, unconsciously, out of habit or lack of means to alleviate negative emotions, can compromise your weight loss goals and not solve the problem that first stressed you.

In a world where it is ugly to be vulnerable and sentimental, we have learned to literally swallow our feelings in the form of food, regardless of our internal signs of hunger and satiety.

You try to control your food to counteract the symptoms of the problem (weight gain and overeating), but the cause of it is not resolved.

Girl sitting in tub eating a bowl of pasta looking sad.

What to do about it: Allow yourself to feel and welcome your feelings. They are not able to destroy you. Just recognizing discomfort, anxiety or sadness can make you feel better. And when we feel good, we tend to eat well. Creating this emotional resilience can be a watershed in your relationship with food.

What else do you believe leads to eat without hunger?

What other factors weigh more on your food choices?

Understanding your patterns is the key to mastering your behaviors.

I am a Brazilian girl (living in Sao Paulo with my fiancé — and other 20 million people). I love coffee, books, and good food. I also really enjoy studying and learning new things that allow me to further develop myself both professionally and personally. I have a degree in Food Science and hold a Ph.D. in Agri-food Marketing. In addition, I am a Certified Nutrition Coach and an enthusiastic Nutrition student.

After 15 years of living in war with my body and with food, I found freedom through mindfulness and intuitive eating, practices that allowed me to overcome yo-yo dieting and binge eating.

I’m passionate about helping women rewrite their food and body histories so they feel free and confident to live their lives to the fullest.

There is a power that comes alive when women free themselves from the food prison in which they have learned to live, when they realize that they are capable and deserving of feeling fantastic in their own bodies, and that confidence is a state of mind — not a body lotion which you get the right to use when you reach a weight-loss goal.

My work is dedicated to nurturing, celebrating and sharing this message.

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