Do this one thing to stop overeating

coworkers sharing treats

These days, food is plentiful and it…is…everywhere!

Not just any kind of food either.  The wrong kinds; lots and lots of calorie dense, nutrient lacking kinds.

And let’s face it; willpower just doesn’t cut it.  Whether the pile on the kitchen counter (or table, or coworker’s desk) gets you on the third time by or the thirtieth, sooner or later you’re digging in even if you aren’t hungry.

Why would you eat if you aren’t hungry?

Sadly, we’ve forgotten how to hear our body’s true cues for when it’s hungry.  Many of us are slaves to scheduled eating due to school or work demands or from simple conditioning.  We eat, because it’s time to, not necessarily because we need to.

But this isn’t the only trigger that gets us to eat when we aren’t hungry.

What are triggers?

A trigger is any event that causes you to eat.  A trigger can include true hunger, but often these triggers are something else entirely.

How many of these common triggers have caused you to eat even though you didn’t feel hungry at the time?

  • fat free glow worms?seeing food
  • smelling food
  • talking about food
  • seeing a food commercial on TV
  • being offered food
  • driving by your favorite eating establishment
  • while drinking alcohol
  • while with certain people
  • during a holiday or vacation
  • while at a party or function

These are all examples of external triggers.  Internal triggers are caused by our emotions.  Feeling tired, anxious or boredom is common for triggering us to eat.  For some people it can be other emotions including sadness, anger or happiness.

Getting off the food train

The first step is to know when you’re truly hungry and noticing when you’re full.

Physiological hunger is when your stomach has that deep pang, growls or makes boing boing noises.  You could also feel weak, get a headache or feel lightheaded.

distracted eatingIn order to notice when you’re full, you need to pay attention while you eat and eat slowly.  Put aside your book, TV or web browser and engage with your food.  If you pay attention to the entire eating process, you’ll notice when you feel full much sooner than when you eat mindlessly.

Even if there is still food on your plate, you need to stop, get up and put away the food.  If you continue to sit in front of it, you’ll likely continue to graze.

What about all those other triggers?

You have three choices when it comes to triggers.

  1. Continue as you have been
  2. Learn to adapt
  3. Figure out how to avoid

I hope number one is out of the question.


To adapt means to do something different as an interruption to your current behavior.

However, the worst time to try to think of what to do differently is when you’re in the throes of a craving or trigger.

You want to be prepared with a game plan.  That means making a personal list of what triggers you to eat when you’re not hungry.

If you struggle to create a list, spend a week doing your normal routine and make note when you encounter triggers.

Now that you know what triggers you have, you can get creative with how to adapt.  Brainstorm anything and everything you could do differently (even if it’s something extreme that might not seem practical).

Here is a list of common tactics for changing behavior.

  • Keeping a food diary
  • Making note of what’s going on or why you think you want to eat whenever you notice you’re reaching for food
  • Asking, “Do I have any symptoms of true hunger right now?”
  • Keeping low calorie and healthy snacks on hand
  • Drinking a glass of water while trying to decide if you really need or want that food
  • Going for a walk
  • Saying no or no thank you
  • Taking time to remember your goals and determining if this food gets you closer to it
  • Focusing on the activity elements of a social gathering instead of the food elements


Sometimes it’s better to avoid situations that cause triggers or where you know triggers are likely to happen.

Today’s featured image comes from the company kitchen at my day job.  Under the wrong circumstances, I could easily find myself diving in and having a doughnut or pastry (or two) instead of just snapping off a few shots for my blog post.

packed lunchIf I sense I’m struggling with triggers, I’ll avoid the kitchen as much as possible.  I pack my lunch and I’m getting better at remembering to bring napkins and utensils so I don’t need to go to the kitchen for those, either.

If the trigger seems extremely strong and I’m losing the battle, I might decide to bring bottled water or a thermos of tea so I have no reason to visit the kitchen at all.

I know I’m more likely to have triggers if I’m tired, stressed or anxious.  Otherwise, I’m not likely to eat anything because I know those foods won’t help me achieve my goals.

Does that mean I never eat junk?  Absolutely not.  However, I prefer to choose deliberately what I’ll eat, when and how much and I do so mostly on very special occasions.  This is the true meaning of eating these types of foods sparingly.  Eating one or two doughnuts per day is NOT occasionally or sparingly.

Your Turn

Do you struggle with triggers?  Are they external or internal?  What do you plan to do differently to deal with them?  Have you successfully beaten triggers?  Please share your experiences in the comments below!

P.S.  The boxes of pastries were gone by noon!

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  1. cj says:

    Lori! What became of the pastries? Should I not ask? 😉 I prefer the avoidance method. We keep junk food out of the house and stay away from situations that might include junk food. If we are given junk food, we give it away or if we cannot give it to someone, we toss it. Hate to waste, but we will not eat it. Extreme? Perhaps, but it works for us. Have a dilly of an evening, Lori!!!

    • Lori Stalter says:

      I went to the kitchen to heat up my lunch in the microwave. During some friendly banter with my boss, I flipped open the lid to the doughnut box to offer him one. Knowing what the box looked like for my photo session, I was shocked to see one doughnut left. The other pastries had one whole pastry and one partial pastry left, as well. It is simply astonishing how quickly junk food disappears. The sad part is this is not a once a month or even a once a week occurrence. The counter is filled like the numerous times per week. It overflows every day between Thanksgiving and shortly after New Year’s.

      Avoidance works great! Don’t buy it at the grocery store and bring it into the house to begin with. Then there’s no need trying to resist eating it. 😉

      Hope your day is musical and fine!

      • cj says:

        Musical and fine is so kind a wish for my day, Lori, and it is a very safe bet at Hoombah House. May you day be the same or perhaps even better;)