Aimless Eating… Why We Do It


Just one more cookie or a tiny helping of pasta; we all do it. The question is why can’t we just say no? HEALTH delves deeper into the ways we can consciously control what we eat and keep the excess kilos at bay.

The Brain
Most of us don’t overeat because we are hungry; rather we indulge because our mind tells us to do so. According to Senior Nutritionist Lovely Ranganath, many people overeat to cope with the stresses of life. To get out of this vicious cycle, we must first identify the particular stressors that trigger the urge to overeat. For example, it could be that after a stressful day at the office, you tend to overeat at dinner time. Or munch on junk food all day long when you are under financial pressure.

Understanding the Stressor
Once you have figured out the stressor for overeating, learn and practice problem-solving skills. These skills will help you respond appropriately to difficult situations. The end result is when the problems that trigger the urge to overeat are dealt with using alternative ways; people may find they eat less and that their eating behaviors begin to respond appropriately to internal cues of hunger rather than inappropriately to external signals of stress.

To eliminate inappropriate eating cues, Ranganath recommends you shop for groceries only when you are not hungry, make a list when shopping and stick to it, try to buy foods that are low in fat, and serve low-fat meals. In order to suppress the cues you cannot eliminate, she recommends eating in only one place at a table and in one room; use plates, bowls, and eating utensils. “Be sure to clear plates directly into the garbage and minimize contact with excessive food,” she advises. Also, make an effort to serve individual plates and avoid putting serving dishes on the table. Be sure to leave the table when you have finished eating. “Also, make small portions of food look large by spreading food out and serving it on small plates,” she explains. “Be sure to control deprivation by consuming regular meals, avoid skipping meals, avoid getting tired, and avoid boredom by keeping cues to fun activities in sight.”

Moods Linked With Overeating:

  • Sadness is linked to eating foods usually associated with happiness to provide comfort.
  • Boredom is linked to eating to fill time.
  • Anxiety is linked to unconscious nervous eating to relieve stress.
  • Childhood eating habits includes foods associated with celebration and punishment from childhood.
  • Unspoken emotions includes food used to “stuff” emotions down so they don’t have to be dealt with.
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