6 Reasons You Eat When You’re Not Hungry

Food is life.
I plan my entire day around it.
As soon as I wake up, I’m thinking about breakfast. While I’m eating my breakfast, I’m thinking about what I’m gonna get for lunch. Doesn’t matter if I’m having the world’s cheesiest pizza for dinner; you better believe I’m thinking about the Messina I’ma enjoy afterwards.
This revolving door of excitement and plans that centre around food continues on, day in day out; and most likely won’t cease ’till I’m dead. And judging by the sheer quantity of food-related memes that clog my feed everyday, I’m not alone.
As much of a joy as food is in life, there’s a fine line between eating because you’re actually hungry and really feel like something and eating because it’s there and why not.
PEDESTRIAN.TV spoke to Louise Adams, clinical psychologist and founder of Treat Yourself Well, about some of the most common reason we eat when we’re not actually hungry. (It’s important to note straight off the bat that all of us sometimes eat when we’re not actually hungry, and that’s okay. This is simply a little explanation of the 
You’re letting the clock dictate when you’re eating
The clock strikes 12:30pm and everyone in the office legs it for lunch. Only problem is, you ain’t hungry yet. But you should be, shouldn’t you? It’s called lunchtime for a reason.

“Eating around the clock is an external rule,” explains Adams. “This has to do with our culture and conditioning, not our hunger cues. When you learn intuitive eating and forget the clock, it’s really liberating.”

Just because certain ‘experts’ suggest it’s imperative to eat at certain times (like having to eat breakfast first thing to ‘kickstart’ your metabolism), doesn’t it’s right for the individual.

“I rarely eat breakfast. I get hungry around mid-morning. It’s almost seen as a crime but I don’t really care because my body is happy to eat according to when it’s hungry and when it feels like food,” says Adams.
Rigid meal times (like the patriarchy) is a social construct that hurt us all. Remember that next time you feel guilty about a mid-afternoon smoothie.
You’re watching a sad or fast-paced movie
When I go and see a movie, I’m just as excited about the candy bar as I am about the blockbuster. Salty popcorn, icy choc tops and snakes are just some of the treats I indulge in when going to see a good fillum.
It’s not just the exorbitant price of these foods that might concern you; their affects on your eating might hit you for six as well.

“There’s a really well known series of experiments about eating popcorn at the movies. The strongest predictor of how much you’ll eat will be dictated by how big the popcorn you get is,” explains Adams. The research suggests that you make a habit of eating popcorn at the movies, you’ll keep eating and eating it throughout the picture, regardless of whether or not the popcorn is fresh or even tasty.
So basically, if you’re buying the jumbo, there’s a fairly good chance you’ll finish the jumbo. 
The other reason you might walk out of a movie stuffed is if it’s super sad or action-packed. A 2015 study into eating habits in movies showed that those who ate while watching an action movie ate 65% more calories than those who ate while watching a slow-paced show. The study contended that the pacing of shows—operationalised by camera cuts and sound fluctuations—helped drive food intake.
That’s not to say you should avoid thrilling motion pictures entirely – just be mindful with what you’re snacking on.

You’re drunk
Getting pissed as a fart and hotfooting it to the kebab store on the corner for a HSP is a weekly ritual for some. 
If you find that it only takes a few vodkas lime sodas to get you dialling UberEats, the answer might be that you’re too hard on yourself in your non-drunken hours.
“There’s an interplay between restrictive thinking and taking drugs or drinking alcohol,” says Adams. “If you’re a person who tries to be very healthy and has a lot of rules during the week, then you get drunk – you’ll bust out.”
If you’re being too hard on yourself and denying your body of the foods you really feel like during the week, you’re far more likely to completely overdo it when pissed.

“If you live in food jail, then when you get drunk you bust out. The people who aren’t in jail to begin with; they don’t have to bust out.”
Let’s say you deny yourself bread during the week because you’re concerned about the carbs. If you find yourself reaching for the loaf on a Saturday night, take it as a sign that your body is wanting these sorts of foods, and consider working them into your regular diet.
And, if you do swing by Maccas in a drunken stupor, don’t beat yourself up about it.

“When we eat fatty food, it helps us to absorb the alcohol to feel better. So it’s not a bad thing to eat some to sober us up,” says Adams.

The food is there in front of you
Only a few months ago, the Royal College of Surgeons of England wrote an article decrying the rise of “cake culture” in our offices. They basically said that those weekly $2 Woolies mud cakes your boss buys on birthdays and special occasions are having a huge impact on the current obesity epidemic and poor oral health.
A lot of people thought this was pretty dumb, as cake is a nice treat and a good way to celebrate birthdays and other milestones. The cake is only a problem depending on our attitude, says Adams.
“If we have a history of starvation and we’re in an abundant environment, our body knows to stockpile for later.” So if we’re flooded with food and we overeat, it’s usually because we’re trying so hard not to. This is a great opportunity to practice mindful eating.
Your social media feed is packed fulla food

Do you get sucked into watching those bloody 20-second videos of oozing Nutella doughnuts, melty raclette and cookie dough ice-cream? I do, and they always kickstart my cravings. (Screw you and your consistently delicious-looking features, INSIDER food.)
But as Adams explains, you’ll only feel intense cravings while watching these videos if you’re depriving yourself.
“It all depends on your relationship with food,” says Adams. “I think our food restriction is coming fro ma really obsessed place. You either see green smoothies or really decadent desserts; people being really ‘good’ and people being really ‘naughty’. The reason we’re so obsessed is because we’re feeling so guilty.”

“If we have a deprivation mentality, we get obsessed. If you’re feeling restricted and someone posts a picture of a chocolate cake on Facebook and you want it, that’s because you’re human; not because you don’t have willpower. And that [kind of thinking] is a direct result of dieting.”

You’re actually thirsty
Look, sometimes we all forget to drink H2O. When you’ve got alternatives that are so tasty (like coffee, diet coke and beer), suckin’ back enough water can be easily forgotten. Our bodies are 60% water though, and it’s necessary to drink it regularly to stay hydrated. Sometimes when you’re dehydrated you’ll confuse the need for water for the need for food – and thus eat when you don’t really need to. If you think you might be confusing the two, drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes. If you still feel like you want something, go fer it.
But Adams is keen to point out that the whole ‘drink a glass of water if you’re hungry!’ philosophy is trite, and not a substitute for eating.
Weight Watchers are champions of that whole ‘If you’re hungry, have a glass of water and heat it up and put some lemon in it!’ [philosophy]” she jokes. “Really?! If you’re hungry, you’re hungry and that’s different. If you tune into yourself, you can say ‘I feel empty, I’m really interested in this sandwich.’” 
“‘I’m hungry so I’m gonna have a drink’ is an injustice to your body.”
There it is. At the end of the day, all that matters it that you’re kind to yourself, eat when you feel like it and the rest will take care of itself.
Photo: Elf.