If your physiological needs are met, and you aren’t physically hungry, social situations may be causing your desire to eat. This is probably one of the more obvious situational hungers, but is still very important to address.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that social settings can trigger non-hunger directed eating. We are beings who long to “belong”. When others are eating, it is quite easy to get swept along into the “everybody’s doing it” mind-set. Most of us grew up with food being at the center of our gatherings. This isn’t a bad thing, unless you confuse social hunger with physical hunger. We eat in social settings for any number of reasons. The following are just a few:
- Aunt Ida will be offended if you don’t eat the lemon squares she slaved over because she knows they are your favorite.
- The food available isn’t food you have very often and you feel the need to “enjoy it while it lasts”. (Generally holidays)
- You want to fit in, so you eat because everyone else is.
- A rude co-worker really pushes your buttons so you eat because you’re trying to stifle the urge to give him a piece of your mind.
- You feel nervous or awkward in the social setting and the food calms you.
- The event is boring, so you use eating to make it more interesting.
- Eating prevents you from having to make conversation.
- Or maybe you’re so engaged in conversation that you aren’t paying attention to the fact that you are engaging in non-hunger eating.
- Stuffing yourself is a family tradition, so you mirror what you saw growing up.
- You’ve been on a diet and you just can’t take it anymore. You’re “gasping for food” and there’s an entire spread ready for the eating. You aren’t hungry, but you reason that you can “start over on Monday” and since you won’t let yourself have this food come Monday, you engage in “last supper” eating. If this last one is you, then you need to address diet mentality.
Your list could be longer, or could be different altogether. The next time you’re in a social situation, think about the reasons you might feel prompted to eat when you aren’t hungry. It might surprise you. Studies show that we eat far more on average in a social setting. Even sitting at the table with your spouse and/or kids can bring some of these social triggers to light.
Do your best to check in with your hunger level during social distractions. Remember, we’re just identifying why we feel triggered to eat when we aren’t hungry. If you decide to eat when you aren’t hungry, it isn’t the end of the world. Even natural intuitive eaters do this in social settings. The major difference is that they don’t beat themselves up for it (more on this later).
Tomorrow we will turn our focus to “Sensual Hunger“. It’s probably not what you think it is, but I’ll just leave that hanging in the air for now.