Eating When Not Hungry

Updated:May 28,2014

Woman Looking in Refrigerator for Something to EatBinge Eating
Does this sound like you — able to control your portions sometimes but losing control at other times? This is called "binge eating" and lots of people do it.

A binge is when you eat a lot of food in a short time and it's usually not healthy food. Binge eating is bad for you, especially if you have diabetes.

Emotional Eating
Many people eat when they feel upset, angry, sad, lonely or fearful. Emotions such as these can be powerful triggers to eat.

If you're an emotional eater, you can learn other ways to react to your emotions. Emotions usually don't last long — often just 10 minutes to an hour — so you only need to distract yourself from eating for a short time, until the emotion passes.

Nighttime Eating
For many people, dinner is only the start of their nighttime eating. There's nothing wrong with a healthy snack such as fruit, plain popcorn or whole-wheat toast with a little jam a couple of hours after dinner. However, nighttime eating is a problem when you eat large amounts of food or foods high in fat, sodium and calories like cookies, chips, full-fat ice cream, sandwiches or leftovers.

If nighttime eating is a problem for you, try to eat most of your calories during daylight hours. Reach for a light, low-fat and low-calorie snack in the evening.

Instead of Try
Cookies 1 piece whole-wheat toast with jam
Candy 2 cups low-fat, low-salt popcorn
Chips 1 piece fresh fruit
Cheese and crackers ½ to 1 cup fat-free or 1% cottage cheese
Pizza ½ to 1 cup of veggies, raw or leftover from dinner
Ice cream ½ to 1 cup low-fat yogurt (flavored or plain)

To help control binge, emotional and nighttime eating:

  • Get into the habit of eating three meals a day — breakfast, lunch and dinner — so you never get too hungry.
  • Don't keep binge foods at home. If you're a binge eater, you know which foods you usually eat during a binge. Common binge foods are cookies, candy bars, ice cream or chips.
  • Make a list of other things you'll do. Here are some suggestions:
    • Take a walk or enjoy another physical activity for at least 10 to 15 minutes.
    • Talk to a friend who can help you get your feelings under control.
    • Do something you enjoy, like reading, playing or listening to music, playing with pets or children, handcrafts or taking a long hot bath.
    • Do some physical work, such as gardening or housecleaning.
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This content was last reviewed on 01/10/2013.

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