You know you’re not hungry, but you still keep going back to the kitchen to look through the refrigerator and cabinets for something. Or maybe you casually walk past the vending machine in the office to see if something looks good. Eating when you’re not hungry could be a sign of many things. Cravings, boredom and plain old bad habits are often the most common reasons.

Regardless, mindless eating when you’re not hungry – whatever the reason – isn’t healthy.

Here are a few tips to help detour you away from eating (or eating a lot less) when your body doesn’t need the food!

Is Something Missing?: Opening and closing the refrigerator door, or obsessively thinking about what you’re going to eat next could be more that just boredom. Your diet could be missing some important nutrients, increasing cravings for food in general. Ask yourself these questions:

What fat and protein am I including in my diet? Every meal needs to include some amount of healthy fat and protein. A few good suggestions include:

  • Handful of walnuts or cashews (fat + protein)
  • 1/2 Avocado (fat)
  • Tablespoon of olive oil or coconut oil on salads or vegetables (fat)
  • 1 Hard Boiled Egg (fat + protein)

Stop Eating Just Before Bedtime: Eating before you go to sleep can throw off your insulin levels, increasing hunger when you wake up in the morning, and subsequently throughout the day. Think of insulin as your “fat storage hormone.” Anytime you eat in a way that makes this hormone work overtime, your body will pay for it.  PRO TIP: Don’t eat 3 hours (or less) before bedtime. If you have to eat later, make the meal smaller, and make sure what you eat is higher in protein.

Just Want a Taste of Something: Fill a pitcher or large water bottle 1/4 full with slices of lemons, oranges and strawberries. Fill the remainder of the pitcher with water. Drink a couple cups of your fruit-infused water whenever a craving hits.

Gotta Have Something Sweet: Drink herbal tea with a little bit of honey. Sounds boring, but it goes down slow and tastes really good!

For the Chocoholic: Buy a bar of the darkest chocolate you can eat (shoot for 70% cocoa+), break off one square and enjoy it. There is no need to eat half or the whole bar. You can also buy some organic cacao nibs. This is what I do when I want a little bit of chocolate. I blend them right into a smoothie. Delicious.

Curb the Behavior: Of all the tips, this one – in my humble opinion – will work the best in the long run. Change the environment you’re in before the craving hits. If you know you usually hit the kitchen an hour after dinner, grab your laptop or iPad and head to your bedroom to work on your playlist for tomorrow’s workout. If you have a hard time avoiding pastries that are brought into the office at 9am on Friday, keep a protein-packed yogurt at your desk and avoid the break room. Do something different.

Write Down Your Health Goals: Even if you know what your goals are in your head, or you just wrote out your goals last night, do it again. If a bowl of chips or scoop of ice cream aren’t going to help you lower your cholesterol, boost your energy the next day, or [fill in the blank with your goal here], you’ll at least be more conscious of your choices.

Cravings Won’t Stop: If you crave, crave, crave all day long, chances are you’re a) not getting enough protein, b) not getting enough fat, or possibly c) eating too much sugar and starchy carbs (particularly “wheaty” foods). Eat a little more protein with a smidge of more fat with breakfast. This might do the trick. If not, add a little more protein at lunch. It make take several days to get it right.

Getting control of your cravings and bad eating habits could be the key to weight control! I hope these tips gave you some fresh ideas. If you have any suggestions, post them on my Facebook page, or leave a comment here.

The Belly Burn Plan: If you still want a little more explanation of what it takes to get your body into the best shape (yes, we can all have that), pick up my book The Belly Burn Plan. It’s a 6-week plan that helps you eliminate cravings, eat right for your body type and generally feel as amazing as you can.

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