Preventative Eating (why you do it and how to stop)

Preventative Eating (why you do it and how to stop)

You may not be aware of the term preventative eating but if you are someone who has ever dieted, restricted foods or imposed serious food rules on yourself, you have probably engaged in this behavior without even knowing it.

Preventative eating is eating in advance of hunger to prevent the unpleasant feeling of hunger later on.

On its face it doesn’t seem to be a behavior that makes sense. Why would someone choose to eat when they are not hungry?

There actually can be many triggers for this.

  • You anticipate going on a diet in the near future
  • Your job precludes you from eating when you actually are hungry
  • You have a fear of not being able to access food when you do need it
  • You have had the experience of hypoglycemia or other negative consequences of not eating for several hours
  • You had food insecurity or inconsistent access to hearty healthy meals as a child
  • You actually never feel hungry or full so you eat when you think you “should”

Preventative eating shouldn’t be confused with conscious meal planning or advocating for your appetite. Sometimes, you know your body very well and know that if you don’t have a little something now, the consequences of that will be much more severe later. Therefore, preventative eating isn’t always problematic if it’s done as a way to support you later. Sometimes we need a protein or fiber rich bite just to tide us over during a long meeting or to prevent loud growling in the shared office space.

Sometimes, however, it’s steeped in scarcity and FOMO.

For instance, have you ever eaten way too many appetizers at a wedding, even though you know the main meal is coming soon? You know it will affect your ability to eat the meal later but you don’t want to miss out on the mac and cheese bites!

Like everything else I work on with folks related to eating, this is nothing to be ashamed of or judgemental about. If you preventatively eat, it can be a trauma response to the feeling of not having enough.

Recently, I realized that I use sleep to numb out or escape stress. Sometimes I take naps even when I am not physically tired out of fear that I won’t have enough later. I believe this is a vestige of the years I went with disrupted, fragmented or no sleep at all due to having babies at home. In other words, I sometimes preventative SLEEP!

When your body or brain thinks it won’t be nourished or nurtured, it will take over and try to get what it needs one way or another.

What can you do to prevent preventative eating?

Let your brain learn to trust your body and communicate with it.

Give yourself an abundance mindset and repeat mantras and thoughts that let you know you will always have enough.

Plan! Find out the times when you get hungry and when it’s inconvenient for you to eat. Be clever and creative. Create purse snacks and grab and go options in a crunch to eat when you need to, even if it’s not an ideal location or circumstance

When you do eat — make sure it has fiber, fat and protein to help stabilize your blood sugars and give you full-body satiety for several hours.

Use set-backs as information about how to move forward, not to sit in judgment of your progress. When does shaming yourself into success ever make sense?

If your relationship with food is on the rocks, I’m here to help you rebuild that foundation based on trust, communication and respect.

Find out more and how to work with me here

Behavior Change, Eating Psychology, Mindful Intuitive EatingJenny BerkApril 7, 2022eating psychology, eating habitsComment

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