Why Do We Eat When Not Hungry?

Pat Garner

It’s not complicated.  Here is my top 10 list of why we eat when we’re not hungry.

  1. Someone said we need to eat 3 meals plus snacks every day, or we’ll die. Seriously.
  2. We have nothing else to do so we eat.
  3. We’re addicted to sugar and we just eat more sugar.
  4. Comfort food is sooooo yummy.
  5. To deal with our stuff.
  6. To be social – someone took the time to make something, so I better eat it.
  7. The clock said so or see #1.
  8. We love the crunchy, salty, savory, sugary, feel and tastes.
  9. Mom said to clean your plate.
  10. Those free samples at Costco.

What do all of these have in common? They are related to habits. A Duke University study says at least 45% of our waking behavior is habitual. While we’d like to believe “we’re in charge”, it turns out we’re driven by our subconscious or unconscious mind. It’s amazing and yet disturbing. Happily, there has been an increase in grounded findings, based on neuroscience that has helped clear a path over the last few years. To build an effective NEW habit, you need five essential components:

A compelling reason.

  1. A trigger
  2. A new micro-habit,
  3. Effective practice
  4. A plan

Easy stuff, right? Yeah, right!

I used to be a serious grazer, especially at night. I can look back at that time and know the trigger was sitting at the kitchen table after dinner and watching mindless TV.

My compelling reason was to improve my overall health. I now know the snacking did nothing except trigger an insulin response telling my body to store the excess food as fat, which it did flawlessly!

The trigger was staying at the kitchen table after dinner. I wanted the crunchy, salty, savory or sweet something.

My new micro habit was to leave the table. Oh duh! I would go read, meditate, write, but I left the table. How simple was that? Holy cow.

Effective practice: I’d practice in small chunks. After leaving the table I would find new habits like reading or meditating for 15 minutes.

The plan when I stumble and stay at the table after dinner is to not beat myself up or say I’m a loser. I’m resilient and will do better the next day. Beating yourself up with shame and guilt is something so many people do. Just let it go.

When you put all this together you’ve created a new habit. Voila!  This stuff is simple, but not easy. It’s hard to change your lifelong behaviors and it takes courage to make a change. Go easy on yourself.




  1. Joyce L Shafer says

    Excellent, Pat!

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