Craving-driven eating may be conscious or unconscious. You might see food and eat it just because it’s there, without even realizing it, which would be a case of mindless grazing. Or you might see the food, experience a craving, recognize that you are not hungry, and make a conscious choice to eat anyway. In contrast, hunger-driven eating is always conscious: hunger, as a physiological imperative, commands the presence of the mind.
All eating triggers (or the environmental stimuli that pull the strings of our appetite and provoke cravings) can be divided into the following eight categories: food characteristics, activities, settings (places), events, time, people, words, and weather.
- Food Characteristics: smells, sights, and sounds.
- Activities: TV, reading entertainment, thinking, problem solving, and socializing.
- Settings: indoors (eating in, eating out), outdoors (backyard barbecue, picnic, drive-in).
- Events: holidays, birthdays, weddings, parties, grief, anniversaries, stress days, and nighttime.
- Time: breakfast time, brunch time, lunchtime, dinnertime, suppertime, and nighttime.
- People: permission people (foodie friends, parents, comfort/support people), and stress people.
- Words: health words, taste words, food words, food-processing words (roasted, grilled), and brand names.
- Weather: inclement weather, picnic weather.
I love to go to the movies, not for the movie per say as much as for the popcorn and soda. I could have just eaten a 6-course meal and feel stuffed to the gills, but if you mention its movie time…I am all in for a buttery bucket of popcorn and a large soda. I may just sit there holding it, but I can’t go and NOT get some. This is a classic activity induced trigger.
How about you, do you have any environmental eating triggers? Consider challenging yourself for the next two weeks, and keep track of your eating. After eating, simply ask yourself ‘why’ you ate. If you ate out of hunger, you have nothing further to do. If, however, you ate out of a craving, then ask yourself what type of trigger it was that prompted your eating. After two weeks, draw conclusions about your key trigger vulnerabilities. Are you a “stress eater,” a “TV-watching eater,” an “eater-outer,” a “by-the-clock-eater?” Use the chart above to help you identify which trigger or triggers caused your craving.
Adapted from: Eating The Moment by Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.
Written by Jeanne Finney, ECU SHS Dietitian. Make an appointment with her by calling 252-328-6841; nutrition services are FREE for ECU students!