But the list isn’t about not eating; it’s about not eating when you’re not actually hungry—and about finding a more productive way to deal with cravings that aren’t based in the physical need for sustenance, says May.
“For a lot of people, eating becomes a way of dealing with boredom, dealing with not wanting to do something, dealing with uncomfortable emotions,” she says. “When we have a repertoire of ways to take care of ourselves other than eating, we become more focused on meeting our true needs. It’s about redirecting your attention away from food and onto something else until you actually become hungry.”
So when should you redirect your attention? And when should you actually eat? Whenever “hunger” strikes, May recommends taking a pause and considering what you’re thinking and feeling. If you realize that, yes, your stomach is growling and you’re low on energy, you probably need to eat. If your mouth is dry and you haven’t had water in a while or you’re thinking about work and feeling stressed, you probably should do something else, like organize, set some goals, or vent a bit.
To find redirection tactics that work for you, use May’s list (below) as a jumping-off point. Start by highlighting or circling the activities that look enjoyable to you. After all, doing your taxes so you won’t think about cookie dough probably won’t pan out in practice, she says. Pick some that you can do at work in a couple quick minutes, some that can keep you occupied when you’re at home alone on a rainy day, and some that you physically cannot do while eating (like swimming, playing an instrument, or painting your nails).