Unwanted eating means missing out on getting other wants/needs met, so it’s vital to discover what they are and address them. I’ve narrowed down the field to several basic “wants/needs” that disregulated eaters often have when they seek food or obsess about it or weight. Meeting them appropriately will help you become a “normal” eater.
When you’re tired, you may turn to food looking for an energy boost. At night you may believe you’ve still got oodles to do before you’re entitled to sleep. Perhaps your energy level takes a dive in the afternoon and you seek a food lift to get through the day. Make sure to get enough rest and sleep and to energize yourself with activity, not food.
Another time you might eat is when you need to let go or take a break. Commonly, disregulated eaters push themselves to be productive because they don’t know when enough work/chores are enough. If your thoughts drift to food when you’re working hard, stop and take a breather. By taking non-food breaks, you’ll keep up your energy.
Being bored or lonely can lead you to eating for stimulation. When you’re bored, find an activity to engage you. When you’re lonely, look to connect with people. It’s important to identify which specific need you have, so you’ll know how to meet it. A snack isn’t going to give you the engagement or connection you really want (and deserve).
You may think that the emotional discomfort of disappointment, sadness, anxiety, depression, confusion, guilt, or shame can be alleviated by the “comfort” of food (or the diversion of obsessing about food or weight). Examine your emotions with objectivity and decide how to handle them rather than reach for food. Identify and experience all of your emotions and you’ll build emotional resilience and decrease non-hunger eating.
When you head for food when you’re not hungry, stop and acknowledge what your true need is. Then ask yourself what prevents you from getting it met effectively. Odds are you have some mistaken belief/s about the okayness of meeting it, ie, it’s too scary to feel deeply, it’s weak to seek comfort from others, you have to do it all or be productive 24/7. Rework the belief to make it rational so you can go on to address your real needs effectively. You’ll do less unwanted eating and feel more satisfaction with life. The only need that food meets is for fuel. If you’re not hungry, what is it you’re craving? It’s natural to have needs and desires—we all have them—and to respect and honor them. Explore what yours are and give yourself permission to take care of them.