Just when you thought you could control overeating in certain situations, it happens again – you end up eating more than you wanted to lead to feelings of guilt and shame. First, know that some things will always be out of our control. But, what you can control is your response to a situation, such as strong hunger cravings arriving when you’re trying to maintain healthy body weight.
There can be a wide variety of scenarios triggering you to eat certain foods you normally wouldn’t eat in other situations. Here is a look at three common triggers many of us share and how to overcome the struggle prompting you to eat more than you want:
Resisting junk food
While you may have your own definition of ‘junk food,’ the term generally refers to food with few nutrients your body needs and contains a lot of fat, sugar, and/or salt that can be harmful to your health. If you’re that person who gets a hankering for foods such as potato chips, chocolate, soft drinks, or others and has difficulty resisting them, here are a few ideas pointing you in the right direction:
- Keep these foods out of your home and do not bring them to work either.
- Avoid walking by vending machines that contain these foods.
- Have fruits, vegetables, or nuts readily available for snacking on at home and work.
- Eat three meals a day and eat at regular times if possible, spacing them about 5-6 hours apart to prevent hunger cravings.
- Wait 15 to 30 minutes. Distract yourself with an activity such as watering plants, cleaning a closet, reading a book or working on a crossword puzzle, or filing your nails.
- To prevent feelings of deprivation, allow yourself in moderation once or twice a week, a small amount of the junk food you like.
After exercising, you feel hungry
Do you find that when you work out it also works up an appetite? This is common for many people. Many of us assume this phenomenon is because you’re burning a lot of calories, thus you’re hungrier. But burning calories doesn’t directly cause your body to release the hormone that stimulates hunger called ghrelin. However, if your blood sugar drops during exercise, that could create a hunger response. A component we burn when working out is glycogen which is the body’s stored source of carbohydrates. When glycogen stores dip during a workout, the body will turn to sugar in your blood for energy. But if this gets low and blood sugar levels drop, that’s when you body will release ghrelin signaling your brain it time to eat.
Since exercise provides tremendous benefits to the body, here’s how to prevent feeling hungry after a workout:
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after the workout
- Eat a small snack to prevent a post-workout binge such as half a whole-wheat bagel, a small piece of fruit with nuts, or veggies with hummus.
- If possible, try doing your workout before breakfast, lunch, or dinner. That way you can eat your regular meal without consuming extra calories.
- Make sure you’re not using food as a reward for exercising. Instead, exercise for enjoyment and stress relief and view food as a way to nourish your body in a healthy way rather than as an incentive to exercise.
Overeating while socializing with friends
Socializing with friends and family is important for both mental and emotional health and should be encouraged for everyone. Typically, social situations also mean the food is likely to be present, which may trigger you to eat more than usual.
Instead of staying home if you are unable to put the brakes on how much food you eat when socializing, here are some ideas still keeping you social without overeating triggers:
- Eat something healthy before a social event – a small apple, cut-up veggies with dip or hummus, or a handful of trail mix.
- When at the event, drink water or a calorie-free beverage instead of having snacks
- Keep your distance from the food table. Spend time on non-food-related activities like talking with friends
- Treat yourself to only one or two small samples of high-calorie or fatty foods. If possible, fill up on fruits and vegetables
- If with friends at a theater or stadium, order a small bag of popcorn (no butter) and eat it slowly