Somewhere out there is an alternate universe where earthlings eat for one reason only.
(Also in this utopia, food companies actually give a shit about our health, food is a bonafide medicine and Ryan Gosling is still single).
As it is, we live in a beautifully flawed and wonderfully warped world in which there are numerous reasons to eat that do not include hunger.
Habit – there’s one. Loneliness – that’s a biggie. Boredom – my personal nemesis. Occasions – special or invented just so you can eat (Friday, anyone?). Fear. Frustration. Stress. Sadness. Crises. Culture. Because it’s a ‘mealtime’. Because ‘it would be rude not to’. Because, ‘Why the hell not?’.
Eating when you’re not hungry – not to mention eating sugary-salty-processed-fatbomb crap when you’re not hungry – is kind of a problem isn’t it?
- You put on weight. And I have yet to meet someone feels better heavier.
- It’s likely covering up something a bit trickier. Something that needs sorting out.
So these are my 25 ways to stop eating crap, especially when you’re not hungry. Feast yourselves.
Before you eat:
- Drink a big glass of water 20 mins before
Before breakfast, this should be warm with lemon (and no, I will never stop peddling this)
- Say thank you
1 in 7 people globally are starving. When you’re grateful for your food you’re less likely to abuse it.
- Eat slowly
Put down your knife and fork down between bites. Actually taste what you’re eating.
- For god’s sake chew
A lot. This is a scenic walk. Not a race. Your digestion will improve. Your belly will get flatter.
- Quit multitasking
Web surfing, working, reading, walking, driving or texting will turn off your full switch.
- Say out loud, ‘Wow, I’m so full!’
Your mind believes what it hears. It’s stupid like that.
- Brush your teeth
Really want sticky toffee pudding a la toothpaste? Thought not.
- Have a sweet tea
Peppermint and licorice tea is naturally sweet and a saviour of mine. Also chocolate/vanilla/caramel flavours are a win.
- Hang on
Tell yourself you can have something sweet if you wait 20 minutes. I bet you’ll forget.
- Distract yourself
Tell your brain that eating is over by going for a walk, calling someone, having a bath or an ‘early night’.
- Change the scenery
Got the 3pm boreds? Take some fresh air. If smokers can bugger off for ten minutes, so can you.
- Drink, drink, drink
Hydration should happen between meals rather than during, as it dilutes stomach acid.
- Learn this sentence
‘No thanks’. That’s it. A rare but completely acceptable substitute for, ‘Oh go on then!’
Before you snack:
- Ask, ‘How am I feeling?’
If the answer is genuinely ‘Hungry’, then by all means eat (see below).
- Ask, ‘What am I really hungry for?’
Connection. Rest. Quiet. Excitement. A hug. More self-care almost always = less scoffing
What to eat:
- Protein + good fats + fibre
Want to feel fuller for longer? This is your meal formula.
- Fruit with fat
Fruits can cause a sugar spike and rapid re-hunger. Slow that down with some nuts on the side.
- Snack balls
Nuts, dates and raw cacao in the blender. Roll into balls and refrigerate. Make a batch on Sundays.
- Juices and smoothies
Great snacks. Easy on the fruit.
- Savoury things
Veggie sticks and hummous, olives, nuts, boiled eggs. (If you wrap an egg in tinfoil, put it in a bowl of water and microwave it, it boils perfectly!)
What to replace:
Replace with a natural protein/snack bar (Pulsin and Nakd are my faves, dates stuffed with nut butter or raw chocolate
Replace with oatcakes, nuts, kale chips or the occasional bag of salted popcorn
Replace with berries, grapes or coconut chunks (remember – nuts on the side)
- Ice cream
Replace with banana ‘nice cream’. Frozen fruit, in the blender.
- Fizzy drinks
Replace with sparkling water laced with fruit, cucumber and mint
Ta da! My 25 ways to stop eating crap.
It seems so easy doesn’t it? I know it isn’t, always. What I’ll say is this. It’s okay to substitute food for love/hugs/excitement/happiness/companionship once in a while. We all misuse food from time to time, so go easy on yourself. But if you’re having biscuits with your boredom every single afternoon at work, or coming home nightly to no one but Ben & Jerry, that’s a sign that life needs to shift.
Look closely and you’ll see that what you’re eating – and how, when and where you’re eating it – can shed light on patches of discomfort in your life. Niggles, ruts and sore spots you can then begin to bring awareness to, followed, eventually, by change.
“If you pay attention to when you are hungry, what your body wants, what you are eating, when you’ve had enough, you end the obsession, because obsession and awareness cannot coexist.”
– Geneen Roth
And bear in mind that real, lasting change isn’t something that happens in a flash. This is a long game (and why my coaching programme is six months). Your relationship with food lasts a lifetime – nurture it, refine it, deepen it one beautiful step at a time. So instead of doing everything on this list tomorrow, pick one. Practice it. And when it’s stuck, pick another.