Eating When You Aren't Hungry Could be Dangerous for Your Health

Eating When You Aren't Hungry Could be Dangerous for Your Health

Imagine this: it’s Sunday afternoon, and you just had a big brunch. You’ve finished the presentation you need to turn in Monday morning, and everyone’s decided to have a quiet evening at home. You roam around the house, wander into the kitchen, and, eventually, end up rummaging in the fridge and serving yourself a big slice of leftover birthday cake.

Or how about this one:

You meet up with some friends at a local coffee shop after lunch. They haven’t eaten yet, so they decide to get some sandwiches, and even some desert to go along with their coffee. You aren’t hungry, but it seems natural to follow the crowd as you continue your conversation. So you go ahead and ask for a big ol’ deli sandwich and some coffee cake along with your coffee.

Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. Whether you call it “bored eating” or simply “being polite,” we’ve all eaten more than we need to even when we aren’t hungry.

Up until now we’ve thought of this sort of behavior as simply a bad habit. In the worst-case scenario, it was a habit that could cause us to gain a few pounds here and there if we did it too often.

New research shows; however, these behaviors might have a much bigger negative effect on our health than we previously thought.

What’s Really the Problem with Eating When We Aren’t Hungry?

Research recently published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, titled “Let Hunger Be your Guide” found how eating while feeling full affected consumers’ health. To carry out the study, researchers recruited 45 undergraduate students and asked them to rate their level of hunger before eating a high-carbohydrate meal. The participants’ blood sugar levels were measured at different intervals before, during, and after the meal.

The results show that participants who were even a little hungry before the meal had lower spikes in blood sugar levels than others who were not hungry. These findings demonstrate that it is beneficial to eat when you are at least slightly hungry, rather than when you are full, as it helps to ensure a balanced and stable blood sugar level.

In general, blood sugar (or blood glucose) levels rise after eating a meal, especially after eating meals rich in carbohydrates. Research shows that it the elevated blood sugar levels damage cells, and can lead to diabetes and nerve problems, among others. That is why it is important to maintain relatively controlled blood sugar levels.

Tips to Keep from Eating When You Aren’t Hungry

1.     Turn off the TV: Watching TV while you eat distracts you from tuning into how hungry you are. Rather than just taking a taste of ice cream, by the time your show ends, you’ve finished the whole pint.

2.     Take up a hobby: Whether it’s knitting, playing board games, or even playing video games, keeping your hands busy and having a go-to activity when you are feeling bored could keep you from eating mindlessly.

3.     Drink water throughout the day: drinking more water will keep your stomach distended and will remind you of your fullness level. Additionally, taking more frequent bathroom breaks helps you be more mindful of your body and it’s needs.

4.     Say it out loud (or at least in your head): When you catch yourself lingering in front of the pastry display or thinking hard about that second serving, take a moment to ask yourself whether or not you are truly hungry. If the answer is no, say it to yourself to reinforce that full feeling.

5.     Keep low-carb snacks on hand: When nothing else seems to work keep the chips and sweets out of sight and replace them with some cut-up veggies and hummus.  This will keep your food anxiety at bay without drastically raising your blood sugar.