How to know when you’re eating because you’re hungry, bored or stressed
We live in a food-mad world.
Everyday activities are almost always associated with a snack on the side. Going to the cinema? You’ve just got to get popcorn - it’s tradition. Off to watch a football match? You’re just bound to bump into a tempting hotdog or nachos seller.
And let’s not forget the tidal wave of food-related YouTube channels, involving competitive eaters devouring ridiculous portions: like model-turned-competitive-eater Nela Zisser, who recently ate 20 McDonald’s burgers for her channel.
You can’t deny it - we’re totally obsessed.
So it’s no wonder that, on occasion, we eat for other reasons than actual hunger. We eat because we feel pressured into it, because we’re bored and because we’re increasingly emotionally dependent on the stuff.
Don’t agree? Think about every romcom you’ve ever watched - there’s nearly always a point in which the protagonist gets dumped, feels depressed… and reaches for the ice cream. It’s arguably become the biggest break-up cliche ever.
But it’s these impulses that cause health complications, making us overweight and less in-tune with our bodies. Health information site, BootsWebMD, goes so far as to claim that approximately 75% of overeating is a result of our emotions - a whopping number which would be wise to combat if we wish to keep our bodies in good shape.
Luckily, there are ways you can figure out where your hunger is stemming from. The next time you find yourself reaching for a spoon, consider these questions:
Is your hunger a slow burner?
Wait ten minutes before taking your hunger cravings seriously. Why? Hunger is physical, so if it’s true hunger, it won’t abate after time. Emotional hunger, however, is instant, so if your food cravings come and go quickly, they’re likely stemming from your heart instead of your stomach.
Ten minutes is just long enough for you to figure out if your mood is behind your desire for food - so make it count (literally). Set a timer or alarm clock for yourself to make sure that you don’t cave and distract yourself in the interim - your waistline will thank you!
Are you picky?
Are you umm-ing and aah-ing over what to munch on? If you’re being picky, chances are that you’re not that hungry. When you’re truly hungry, you’ll pretty much eat anything to abate the physical discomfort hunger brings (even your leftover lasagne from three days ago, that you really should’ve thrown out by now).
Ask yourself this - are you hungry enough to eat a bowl of greens? If the answer is no, put the cookie that you’re holding down - you’re not that hungry. If you would eat the veg, then chances are your hunger is genuine. Good trick or what?
Are you thirsty?
It can be easy to confuse hunger with thirst, as when you’re dehydrated your body acts similarly - becoming a rumbly, irritable and generally uncomfortable vessel.
Before you pick up your fork, drink a glass of water and wait a little - see if the rumbling subsides. Remember - many health authorities recommend two litres of water a day - or eight eight-ounce glasses - so ensure you’re drinking often, otherwise your body might send you confusing signals.
Next time you think you’re hungry? It could be that your body’s craving some H20, not a third Oreo.
Have you been on the couch all day?
A simple way to find out if your hunger is an illusion is to get moving. Go for a brisk walk for ten minutes. Do a little dance in your room. Or, if you want to impress us - hit the gym for half an hour! We’ll cheer you on.
If your hunger is tied to emotions, a quick spin class should let you know. Doing exercise releases positive endorphins, so if your cravings have been quelled post-workout, you were never truly hungry in the first place. And if your belly is still rumbling? Well - you’ve certainly earned a good meal after breaking that sweat. It’s a win-win.