3 Reasons Why We Eat

I’ve been reading the book “Eating Behaviours and Obesity” by Dr. Shahram Heshmat over the past few weeks and I have to say, he has a great way of putting complex information into an easy to understand format.

One of the things that he writes about are the 2 reasons why we eat. While these weren’t a surprise to me in concept, the way that he titled and described them really made sense to me. I have added  third to the list that I personally experience.

picture of book cover

The Reasons

  1. physiological hunger (you physically feel hungry) – our body needs food to survive
  2. hedonic hunger – we eat because it makes us feel good
  3. boredom – this one is my addition.

How I Respond to those Reasons

Lately I have been playing around with these 3 reasons. Each time I want to eat something I ask myself which of the 3 reasons is the reason why I am reaching for food in that moment and I have a certain action I do for each one.

  1. physiological hunger – great! Continue on!
  2. hedonic hunger – hmmm….will those cookies really make you feel better? Wait at least 10 minutes before giving into this one (usually by the end of the 10 minutes I don’t want the cookies anymore)
  3. boredom – get your ass of the couch and do something!

What are your tips and tricks for eating for the right reasons? I would love to hear them!

9 thoughts on “3 Reasons Why We Eat

  • When I was in high school and had my braces taken off, I ended up with a mild case of TMJ. Boom! Eating crunchy foods (like chips) suddenly became work so I’d only eat them if I really REALLY wanted them and I could only eat a few before my jaw would get tired. Now, I never eat from boredom. (And only rarely to feel better!)

    Isn’t there a fourth type of eating? Don’t some people munch, thinking they’re hungry, when they’re actually thirsty?

    • You make a good point about experiencing discomfort as a source of motivation to change. It seems that most people have to get to a point in their life where their level of discomfort is so great that they are willing to make changes because it’s too painful to stay where they are. I love helping people figure out how to motivate themselves to change before reaching the point of that extreme discomfort.

      Fourth type of eating – great question. The research is mixed on whether or not feeling hungry could also be a symptom of needing water. I think that if you’re hungry and there isn’t really any reason to be (you’ve eaten enough already – doesn’t make sense that you’re hungry again) drinking some water first to see if that’s what it is could be a good idea. Most people don’t drink enough water as it is, so using the sensation of hunger as a reminder to also drink water could help with that.

      Great question Kimberly!

    • My 4 reasons (similar)
      1. Hunger
      2. Eating tastes good / feels good
      3. Many types of emotional reasons including boredom
      4. Specific food type addictions and cravings eg suger and alcohol

  • I have experienced all of those at various points and I’d add a fourth — THIRST! I’m dehydrated most of the time (even though I consciously try to get enough…) I have found that when I think I’m hungry, I’ll mentally check the last time I ate, what I ate and how much. Then, I’ll mentally check how much water I’ve had that day. Every time, my mental check will tell me that water is the real issue. I grab my container and drink. It does the trick every time.

  • I also find sometimes that the food I crave is a ‘”wet” food, like ice cream. A drink of water drops the urgency to eat way down.

    Another trick I use is that if the craving for a certain less-than-healthy food keeps returning for 3 days, I’ll say Yes and have some. That keeps me from having too much of it or giving into every little impulse for it.

    • I like the three day idea – what I like about it is that you aren’t really saying no. You’re saying that if you still want it in three days then you can have it. Great tip!

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