Do you have a collection of excuses you repeatedly use to justify eating when you aren’t hungry? Or continuing to eat when you’ve already had enough?
Your decision to eat is always preceded by a thought, even if you barely notice the thought. I’ve heard from many clients that when they grabbed those cookies or chips or whatever, they weren’t thinking anything. But that isn’t true. That’s not how our bodies work.
Your hand doesn’t just grab food and put it in your mouth without your brain telling you to do that. And that signal from your brain is your thought.
One of the keys to permanent weight loss without dieting is to get to know your counterproductive thoughts and change the way you think. So today, I’m calling you out about thoughts you may have to justify eating when you aren’t hungry.
Here is a list of 12 excuses and rationalizations for eating when your body doesn’t need food – when you aren’t hungry. Which ones do you use the most? Do they actually make sense or are you really just lying to yourself?
I gained a lot of weight overeating healthy foods. Eating any food when you aren’t hungry, no matter how nutritious, is still overeating. If your body doesn’t need those calories right now, you’ll store them as fat. Even if it’s carrot and celery sticks or some food that Weight Watchers considers “free.”
I say “free” in quotes because there’s no such thing as free food when it comes to weight management. Time to stop kidding yourself that it’s okay to overeat if the food is healthy. Overeating isn’t healthy. Period.
What exactly is it that you deserve? To add extra weight to your body by eating food when you aren’t hungry? Your body works hard for you all day, and what it deserves is to be treated with respect, kindness and care.
There are many other ways you can be kind to yourself without eating if you aren’t hungry. Instead of eating, take the time to make a list of little rewards or ways to care for yourself that you can refer to in the future to give yourself something you truly deserve! Maybe it’s some relaxation, a walk in the woods, or a nap.
I call this the “human trash can” excuse. Like all food your body doesn’t need, the food you eat to avoid “wasting it” will be stored as fat. In other words, the excess food you keep eating to avoid “wasting” it is going to be wasted whether you eat it or throw it away. So why not put it in the real trash can rather than use your body as the trash?
People our age were goaded into cleaning our plates because children in Africa or Appalachia or China were hungry. The truth is that children who may be hungry anywhere in the world will not benefit from you cleaning your plate. Instead of eating for this reason, it’s way better to just throw it away, give it away or save it for later when possible.
Do you associate eating with giving yourself energy? Think about this – if your body needed food, it would give you hunger signals, not make you feel tired. If you aren’t undernourished, food won’t make you less tired, it will make you more tired.
How tired do you feel after eating too much at a meal? You want to lay down and either rest or take a nap, right? Plus overeating will likely cause you to gain weight which you’ll have to drag around to the detriment of your joints and your heart, making you even more tired. If you’re really tired, give yourself the break you need. REST!
This was one of my old personal favorites. I gained 40 pounds in 4 years eating to relieve my stress at a job that was a bad fit for me. Yes, food can very temporarily ease your stress, but only when you’re eating it and for a short while thereafter.
If you choose to eat when you’re stressed, you are in the long term creating even more stress. More stress by possibly feeling guilty for what you ate (although you shouldn’t feel guilty for eating) or having bad feelings about how you look or the fact that you’re gaining weight instead of losing it.
Sometimes we can’t eliminate whatever is causing our stress, like when someone we love has been in an accident or is very ill. You can learn to manage your thinking about this, and you certainly can prevent the secondary stress that you are causing yourself because you’re eating as a pacifier.
Deep breathing, meditation, or taking a walk are just a few alternatives to relieving stress that don’t involve food and are more effective at helping reduce stress. If you want to reduce stress eating, check out my free video on how to Kick the Emotional Eating Habit for Good.
Why do you hardly ever get to eat this food? Because it’s on your mental list of “bad foods”? Not allowing yourself to eat your favorite foods just makes you want them more. It comes from a mindset of scarcity.
You likely learned this from dieting or from diet culture. Yet I’m betting there is no scarcity of food in your life, right? So why approach food from that perspective? If you let yourself eat what you love and what your body wants when you’re hungry, you won’t crave those foods so much. And you won’t miss out.
This goes for overeating during the holidays, too. Dumping this scarcity mindset and approaching eating from a place of abundance is one of the most important mindset shifts you need to make if you want to lose weight and keep it off.
My free seven-day food and mindset challenge that can help you ditch this diet mindset and have a more peaceful relationship with food and eating is available to you if you’re ready to get started.
Like number six above, this one is also in the food FOMO (fear of missing out) category. It’s part of that scarcity mindset. The truth is that you can enjoy all kinds of wonderful food while on vacation without having to eat every single thing that looks good, or eating too much.
Just listen to your body, eat what you love when you are hungry, and really enjoy it.
Stop eating when you’re lightly full. When you get thoughts about missing out on some food, just remember that all you have to do is wait until you’re hungry again to eat something else delicious. You CAN go on vacation, eat really well and NOT gain weight.
The same concept about the scarcity mindset applies here as well. All you have to do is wait until you’re hungry again to eat something else that tastes great. Remember, food tastes best when you’re hungry anyway, and your enjoyment goes down as you keep eating after the first few bites.
It may still taste good, but is it worth feeling bloated and getting indigestion? Instead of thinking, “this tastes so good,” try thinking, “that was delicious, but I don’t want to ruin it by getting a stomach ache from overeating” or “that was yummy, and I can eat something else delicious when I feel hungry again.”
I call this preventive eating. Occasionally, you may be able to justify eating because you won’t have a chance when you get hungry, but such situations are rare and almost always avoidable. Most of the time, you can either eat when you are hungry, or you can carry a snack, sandwich or other portable meal with you so that you have something to eat when your stomach starts rumbling.
That will help you avoid getting so hungry that you become less discerning about what you eat. But think about it: how many times do you use this as an excuse rather than a necessity?
You worked hard to change your eating habits so that you can lose weight and change your relationship with food and eating, and now you’re using that as an excuse to sabotage your efforts? Rewarding yourself with food is probably one of the reasons you gained weight in the first place, and it is an undesirable habit if you want to weigh less.
You’ve created a connection in your brain by using food as a reward, but you can undo that. Start rewarding yourself in other ways. You know that list of ways you can take care of yourself I mentioned earlier? You can use that list for ideas of how to reward yourself in ways that don’t involve eating when you aren’t hungry.
Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do. It makes you feel good, and I encourage you to exercise because it will improve the quality of your life and health, regardless of your weight. It should never be used as a punishment for overeating. Remember that it takes a lot more time to exercise more than to eat less. And the reality is you probably won’t work it off later anyway.
When you think this, you’re rebelling against yourself. How crazy is that? It is a form of negative self-talk. The message you’re telling yourself is that you don’t care about yourself right now. You’re choosing to allow the immediate urge to eat to undermine your more important long-term health goals. So instead of eating, ask yourself what do you really need right now?
How many of your excuses make sense and help you move towards your health goals? NONE OF THEM!
So what can you do? Whenever you want to eat but aren’t hungry, pause and notice what excuse you’re telling yourself. Then recognize that it is neither true nor helpful. Think about what you really need instead of food.
Although eating during these times may be your habit, the only way to change that and take better care of yourself is to notice when you’re making excuses for eating when you aren’t hungry and make a better choice.
Which of these excuses do you use the most? Do they actually make sense or are you really just lying to yourself? Have you tried losing weight without changing your eating habits and mindset? What were the results?