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Not Hungry But Want to Eat? Here Is How To Stop It

7 min read
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Melissa Mitri post Reviewer Melissa Mitri post Reviewer
Verified by Melissa Mitri
MS, Registered Dietitian, Former President of CT Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

Table of Contents

Many people are often not hungry but want to eat. This phenomenon can occur when you are stressed, bored, upset, or for many other reasons. Unfortunately, the problem with this feeling is that you can end up overeating because you are not physiologically hungry. 

If this sounds familiar to you, read on for tips and tricks on how to stop eating when not hungry.

Why Do I Want to Eat When I’m Not Hungry?

While there are endless reasons you may feel the desire to eat even if you are not hungry, this list will cover some of the core causes.

  • Your last meal was too small
  • Your last meal was missing a major food group or was not balanced
  • Boredom
  • Emotional distress, such as anxiety or sadness
  • Eating too fast
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Medical conditions, such as diabetes

For more information, check out this article on why your stomach may feel empty even though you ate

How to Stop Eating When You’re Not Hungry

Whether you want to eat because of boredom, stress, or having had an unsatisfying meal, there are ways to combat this in a healthy way. Let’s talk about how to stop eating when not hungry! 

tips what to do when not hungry but want to eat

Reconsider the Size and Composition of Your Main Meal

Have you ever had a full meal — or perhaps you even overate until you were uncomfortably full — but still felt like you wanted to eat more? It may be because your last meal or snack was too small, or maybe it did not contain a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. 

Some meals, primarily those that are deficient in protein and healthy fat, may sometimes feel unsatisfying. Even though you physically feel full and maybe even uncomfortably so, you may still have the desire to eat more. 

Making sure your meals and snacks contain a healthy fat source, such as olive oil, avocado, or nuts, as well as a protein source, such as meat, poultry, or fish, can help you feel satisfied and full after eating. See below for some healthy and satisfying snack ideas if you’re feeling hungry after meals!

Distract Yourself If You Are Bored

Another common reason that people feel that they want to eat is boredom. If you suspect that this is the case, try doing an activity you enjoy instead of eating. 

For example, you could call a friend or family member, do some household chores (such as laundry!), or go run some errands. 

It may feel uncomfortable at first to distract yourself from food, but as soon as you get involved in doing something important or even excited about a new hobby, the ‘eating out of boredom’ problem will be diminished. 

Learn to Manage Strong Emotions and Stress

Yeah, this is the hard one.

Many people feel like eating when experiencing stress, sadness, or other strong emotions. While food may provide some short-term consolation, it doesn’t address the root of the problem.

During single incidents of feeling strong emotions, try to unwind by taking a walk, journaling, or meditating. It may help you deal with them without eating.

If you have persistent strong feelings of anxiety, sadness, or something else, it is essential to reach out to a psychologist or clinical therapist to dig deeper and properly manage the issue. 

Try Mindful Eating

Another potential cause of feeling like you want to eat more after recently eating is eating too fast. According to a study published in the journal Nutrition Research Reviews, mindful eating can help reduce food intake in some populations. [1]

Essentially, mindful eating is a practice that promotes enjoyment of your food and being present while eating. 

For example, many people eat quickly while watching a television show, scrolling on their phone, or even doing work while skipping their lunch break. If you are mindfully eating, you will get rid of those distractions and eat your meal slowly and thoughtfully! 

You have to take care to chew every bite and think about the flavors and textures you are eating. In addition, you should note the feelings and thoughts you have while eating. 

Mindful eating can help you feel more present while eating and enjoy your food more, thus promoting satisfaction after eating. Give it a try! 

The Simple Solution to Wanting to Eat Is to Eat!

When you are not hungry but want to eat, one immediate solution may surprise you: just eat! You may be worried you are “cheating” on a diet or ruining your “clean” eating day. However, when you feel like you want to eat, sometimes the appropriate and healthy solution is to eat! 

Eating is much more than simply a source of nourishment or meeting a physiological need. It is essential to acknowledge that eating can be social, emotional, cultural, and much more — and that’s okay!

Now, it may not always be a healthy option to have an entire second meal, but it can be helpful to have a small and balanced snack. Altogether avoiding the desire to eat more when not hungry can lead to overeating later in the day, so try having a small snack instead. 

Here are some ideas of healthy snacks that will promote satiety because they contain a healthy and filling mix of protein, carbs (often including dietary fiber), and fat. 

  • Whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese
  • Avocado toast
  • Apple slices with nut butter
  • Greek yogurt with fruit and granola
  • Tuna with wheat crackers
  • Hummus with pita
  • Peanut butter protein balls (Mix oats with honey and nut butter of your choice. Form into balls and enjoy on the go!)
  • Hard-boiled eggs and cut-up veggies
  • Half a turkey and cheese sandwich on wheat bread

Consult With a Doctor If You Constantly Feel Hungry After A Meal

If any problems have already been addressed and you are still experiencing constant feelings of wanting to eat after recently eating, it is crucial to speak with your primary care physician to determine if there could be a medical or hormonal cause to address. For example, having diabetes can contribute to excessive feelings of hunger even after eating. 

Additionally, if you are still struggling with this feeling of wanting to eat even after recently eating, speak with a registered dietitian nutritionist. They can help you target the cause of the issue, especially if a medical reason is at play. 

If you’ve never seen a nutritionist, did you know there are many questions you can ask your registered dietitian nutritionist that might not be so obvious? Check out this list of 13 uncommon questions you can ask your dietitian, including why you may feel hungry even after a meal.

If you aim to lose some weight and improve overall health, try Omo, an all-in-one weight loss app to track caloric and nutrient density of your meals, log your activities and monitor your weight-loss progress.

Final Words

Let’s recap what we have discussed in this article.

  • There are many potential causes of wanting to eat while not being hungry, including boredom, strong emotions, and eating too fast.
  • Another cause could be that your previous meal or snack may have been too small or unbalanced.
  • Depending on the suspected cause of wanting to eat, there are several possible solutions, including taking a walk if you are stressed or calling a friend if you are bored.
  • Mindful eating is also a beneficial practice to support being present while eating, which can, in turn, support satiety and fullness. 
  • Anyway, if you want to eat even if you are not hungry, there is nothing wrong with having a small, balanced, and healthy snack! 
  • If the feeling of wanting to eat when not hungry is persistent, you may benefit from speaking with a medical professional, such as a primary care physician, licensed clinical therapist, or registered dietitian nutritionist. 
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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