Perhaps you just had dinner or are back home after lunch at a restaurant. You are physically full, not hungry, but still want to eat. You may be thinking, why and what do I even want to eat?
You are definitely not alone in this, it’s very common to not be hungry but still crave more food.
Often it’s hard to even pinpoint what you want to eat, you just feel you need more.
Other times you see something that looks delicious and feel like you won’t be satisfied until you eat this thing.
Whatever situation you are in, you may be wondering, is it ok to not be hungry but still want to eat?
Well, first we need to determine why you are hungry.
Why do you want to eat when you aren’t hungry
So, you know how you feel, but why do you want to eat if you aren’t hungry?
There are going to be three main reasons you feel this way:
- You are trying to cope with your emotions using food.
- You are restricting yourself from having hyperpalatable foods.
- You weren’t fully satisfied by your meal.
Let’s start with the first one.
Using food to cope with your emotions
When you crave food even after you have just eaten, examine your emotions. What negative emotions are you experiencing?
Loneliness? Stress? Anger? Frustration? Shame? Guilt? Sadness?
If you are feeling down for any reason, you may be using food as a way to cope or comfort you.
While there is nothing wrong with this, food is a great comfort every once in a while and can often bring us back to pleasant past memories, there are a few things you need to consider.
Have you been using food as your only way to cope? What else are you doing to address your emotional state?
If you exclusively use food to cope, you may need to explore other options.
Here are some examples of ways to cope with negative emotions:
- Journal your thoughts and feelings
- Call a close friend or relative
- Do a relaxing activity such as yoga, meditation, going for a walk
- Perform a self care ritual such as doing a facial, taking a bath, getting a pedicure
- Read a comforting book or watch a movie
Try experimenting with other ways to cope with emotions other than food to see if your cravings decrease.
Restricting hyperpalatable foods
If there is a particular food you are craving after a full meal, it may be because you are overly restricting hyperpalatable foods.
Is that chocolate cake sounding extra delicious? How about that fudge ice cream? Or that bag of greasy potato chips?
Whatever it is that is catching your eye, you need to think to yourself, are you giving unconditional permission to include all foods into your diet? Are you restricting certain foods from your diet?
If it is the latter, this may be why you are craving this food even if you are full.
Now, just to clarify, it’s ok to want a slice of cake after a full dinner.
But, if you are constantly thinking about these foods, or are unsatisfied after having a slice or two, you need to consider why.
It’s actually important to incorporate hyperpalatable foods into your daily diet, because this will reduce your cravings towards them overall.
It is better to have a little bit of “junk” food everyday than to remove them from your diet and be constantly thinking and craving them (and inevitably binging on them).
So, if you are overly restricting hyperpalatable foods, it’s time to loosen up a bit on those food rules!
Your meal wasn’t satisfying enough
Finally, you may not be hungry but still want to eat because the meal you just had wasn’t satisfying.
You may be physically full from it, but you still feel like you need something to “complete” the meal.
Ask yourself, was this meal satisfying? Does it contain adequate carbohydrates, fats and protein? Fiber? Nutrients?
I often find myself craving sweets after eating a meal low in carbohydrates.
This makes perfect sense, my body is craving a full and well rounded meal, and I didn’t give it that!
So if you are not hungry but still want to eat, this may be the reason.
Should you eat when you aren’t hungry
So, should you eat when you are not hungry?
The short answer is: it depends.
If you are using food as a way to cope with emotions, I would suggest entertaining alternative strategies before eating more.
But, if you have occasional negative emotions and really feel like an ice cream bar will make you feel better, that is absolutely ok once in a while.
It really only becomes an issue if you are relying on food on a regular basis to make you feel better.
If you are having cravings because you have been restricting certain foods or didn’t have a satisfying meal, then yes!
In this situation, it is 100% ok to eat a little more to satisfy a craving. Your body will thank you.
For some reason, we have this belief that cravings are “bad” and should be suppressed and ignored.
But, honoring your cravings can actually be good for your health and overall well being.
I hope this guide was helpful for you. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at tasteitwithtia.com.