Mindful Eating: Stop Using Food to Feed Alternative Hungers

June 18, 2018
Kirsten Mancosky, MS RD

How often do you find yourself in the kitchen, break room, or a drive-thru line just because food “sounded good?” Then, once you start eating, you realize you were not even hungry in the first place and that the food is not really satisfying. This case is the exact opposite of mindful eating. And for anyone who just broke their on a diet, may the feelings of guilt ensue.

Food nurtures our bodies physically, but there is also a large psychological piece to eating. Too often we use food to fill a mental or emotional void, and that is when we may feel a dependence on food. Instead, we should explore our alternative hungers. I can hear your brain cogs of confusion turning and your questions of “What is alternative hunger?” Allow me to explain.

Defining alternative hungers

These hungers are not the stomach-growling kind or ones that leave you hangry. I am referring to those occasions when you rely on food to be a source of excitement, coping, entertainment, or distraction. A classic example is when you eat because you are bored and food gives you more stimulation than whatever you are doing in the moment. Find a way to activate your brain to satisfy your “hunger for entertainment.” Try learning something new, cracking open a book (or an ebook, if you prefer digital), playing with your dog, or challenging your brain with a throwback game of Tetris.

Examples of other hungers

There are many other desires beyond entertainment that we use food to cure. Because of the value we place on food, it is often hard to identify that we could want anything else. Another example is people who are stress eaters; food is the temporary pick-me-up, but what is it that you are truly yearning? Here are other areas of life that could use your attention.

  • Adventure: explore somewhere new to break up the monotony- a city, city block, or trail
  • Social: connect with people by talking with family or old friends, meeting someone new, or making a fun memory
  • Movement: #justmove your body by doing something you enjoy (and I don’t mean move to the fridge)
  • Emotional: manage your feelings of stress, love, sadness, anger, fear, etc. with something other than food
  • Spiritual: meditate and reflect for insight on your spiritual wellness
Feeding these hungers

My guess is that you have never considered “hunger” beyond food. Now that you have been introduced to feeding other areas of your life, hopefully you will be able to identify when you are truly hungry versus when your brain needs to be stimulated in other ways. Nurture areas of your life that need attention, and food will naturally be dismissed as the ultimate rewarding. Take a walk, spend time with people, or even play a game of Tetris.

 

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Kirsten Mancosky, MS RD

Kirsten is a person of passion- for people, nutrition, and well-being. She is a Registered Dietitian and uses her Masters degree in Diet & Exercise to encourage others in improving their health. Her specialty area is sports nutrition, and she has contributed to enhancing athletes' performance through food at Iowa State University, The Ohio State University, IMG Academy, and professional athletes. Beyond relating to people through food, she connects to others about running, hiking, music, and podcasts.

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