By The Rawtarian

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In this episode, Laura-Jane The Rawtarian shares the four reasons why we eat and some simple, doable strategies for dealing with each issue.

We eat because we're hungry, we eat because we're bored, we eat because we always eat at this time, and much more.

Listen to the full episode to find out why you should be mindful about why you're reaching for that next snack!

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Podcast Transcript

Welcome to episode number 39 of The Raw Food Podcast. I am your host, Laura-Jane, the Rawtarian, and in today's episode we are going to be talking about why you're eating. Could it be because you are hungry? Could it be because you're feeling a little down? Could it be because you're just always eating at this point in the day? Or could it be because you're bored? So stay tuned and I will be back with you shortly.

Why are you really eating?

I'm so glad to have you here with me on another episode of The Raw Food Podcast. I feel pretty excited today about this subject matter, because I've really been implementing some of the things we're going to be talking about in my own life, in my own daily practice of eating and preparing food, and I'm really excited to talk about these simple mind shifts in the way you think about eating that could perhaps really help you get control or make the changes that you want to make in your own daily practice of eating food, which is something we all do every day, so many times a day, and we don't even think about it. So the main topics that we're going to be covering today would be basically just two main concepts, and one would just be: Do you stop and think - and I didn't, and I'm working on it - why am I reaching for this food right now? I'm going to bet that you're not really pausing to think about why you're reaching for food when you're reaching for food. And as you know, I'm not one who advocates for being hungry all the time or too much sacrifice or pain. I want you to love what you're eating. But what I really want you to be doing is eating the right things and also eating for the right reasons. And we all know, especially if you're trying to get in shape, lose some extra weight, kick those junk food habits, we are all making decisions every day and putting food into our mouth that may or may not be what we want to be doing.

So what we're going to look at, and the big picture-- I'm just going so down this rabbit hole already that I haven't even really clearly, succinctly stated what we're going to be talking about. So really we're going to be just looking at the main reasons why people eat food, and those four main reasons would be: Because you're hungry. Maybe because you're eating emotionally. Maybe you're eating situationally, like, for example, myself; I love watching good movies, and when I watch movies or TV, I love to snack. And so it's not because I'm hungry, it's not because I'm sad. That's just what I do when I'm on the couch, and I know I'm not alone in this. And then of course sometimes we just eat when we're bored, and that boredom one can play into all those different reasons as well.

But I'm going to talk about each of those. And they're pretty self-explanatory - because, you know, hungry or emotional or we're eating situationally because we're used to it - but I'm going to share a little bit with you about my journey with each of those elements and tell you how I've started to think differently about certain-- you know, of course if I'm hungry I'm going to do one thing, but if I feel myself reaching for something emotionally, I'm going to try to create some better habits. So we're going to talk about how to deal with each of those types of reasons why we are reaching for food. And as I mentioned before, I want you and I want me to be reaching for really healthy foods that we really want to eat that make us feel great, and usually those would be fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and all of those good things.  So really that's the main gist of what we're going to be talking about today. It's really big picture. We're not talking about the nuts and bolts of how to make a cheesecake or anything like that; we're just going to take a step back and really ponder how it is that we're making these daily decisions.

Listening to your body's cues

So we might as well just jump right in and talk about the most beautiful thing. Our bodies are the most amazing machines, and it's quite astounding when you really think about it. Our body lets us know, by those feelings of either fullness, because we've eaten so much that we feel ill, or we're hungry and we can feel that sort of gurgling, growling. And most of us, we are really-- even the most out of touch people, bodily out of touch people, can kind of recognize like, 'Oh man, I feel really full,' or, 'Oh man, I'm so hungry. I need to eat something.' So I think we all have the skills to be able to recognize those sensations. But what most of us are doing, and even though I'm the Rawtarian and I'm supposed to be so perfect, I'm not perfect. Really! I know, it's a shocker. But one of the things that I've noticed about myself over the past year, I have been feeling that nice fullness sensation quite a bit, but I haven't really been feeling hungry much, because I'm eating a lot, and eating because I'm sad or because I'm bored or because I'm in the situation. So I haven't been really eating dictated based on my hunger-fullness scale.

So one of the basic things that I've tried to think about lately-- and again, we never want to be at that extreme, like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm going to pass out if I don't eat.' We don't want to not eat until we're starving; that's wrong. That's not good, that's only going to lead you to crash and binge on things that you don't want to be eating. So the point of this talk is not to say, 'Okay, everybody. Let's just starve ourselves and just only crack and break and eat something when we're so hungry.'

The hunger scale

One of the things I want to talk about about this hunger piece, the first reason to eat would be, if you think of it as just a scale, for example, from 1 to 10. So let's say 1 is you're so, so, so, so, so hungry. I guess 1 would be like you're practically starving, and 10 would be that post-Thanksgiving gross feeling that you might get if you know you've eaten way too much. But the idea is we never want to be at any of those ends of the spectrum. So what you want to be doing is staying nicely in the middle, so that you're eating enough so that you feel good and satiated and you can feel like, 'Oh, I feel like I've had enough.' So with regards to this scale, we don't want to be abstaining from food and letting ourselves get too hungry, because bad things happen at the extremes of this scale. So what you want to be doing is nicely situate yourself in the middle of the scale, where you're getting nice and full, reasonably satiated, and then also feeling those feelings of like, 'Oh, I'm getting a little bit hungry; I should eat something.' Not that, 'Oh, I'm lightheaded. Oh, I'm so lethargic I don't even have energy to wash the dishes.' You never want to get to that point, either.

So this is the basic idea of this hunger concept, which of course is very easy to talk about from an intellectual perspective, but much harder to put these things into practice. So that's a basic concept of eating because we're hungry. So let's say we've had a beautiful breakfast, maybe a ton of fresh fruit for breakfast, and then we feel good and satiated, or a smoothie or one of my breakfast bowls, etc., and then we maybe stave off a little bit-- I don't know if that's the right word. We hold off, and we're like, 'Okay, I feel good. I'm just going to pause and get to work or do my thing,' whatever your thing is in life that you spend your time doing. And then when you start to feel a little bit hungry again, you actually feel that, and again, you're not starving; it's almost just an awareness or a realization that, 'Oh, I am feeling like there's a little bit more room in my stomach now,' then that's when we can look at having a snack or [leading? [00:08:56.07] to our next meal.

Mindful eating

So this is something that I've been trying to be much more mindful of in my own lifestyle. Because as I was alluding to before, I have found myself slipping into quite a bit of emotional eating and situational eating. And for me, I just wasn't thinking about it in this concept of there's different reasons to eat. I was just eating and not thinking about the reasons why. So one of the first things I did was to just make myself aware. And I wasn't trying to stop or control myself, but think, 'Oh, I'm in the kitchen in the middle of the day, looking for a snack. Is it because I'm hungry or is it because I feel like I've had a crappy day and I want a brownie, or what is it?' And you don't even have to change anything about the way you're doing, but I think becoming aware of your reasons for reaching for something are really key.

Emotional eating

So let's leave that hunger one for the moment, and let's move on now to the lovely emotional eating. And again, we're not trying to say that these are bad or good, what we're just talking about in this podcast is an awareness of yes, we tend to all eat for these reasons, and it's good for you to be aware of when you're doing this. Again, it doesn't mean you can't do this; it's just like, 'Hmm, I am having a bad day. I'm feeling down. I think I'm going to do some emotional eating and have this brownie.' So again, it doesn't mean you can't have that brownie; it's just good to turn on that awareness. So in my case, it's been a bit of a tough year for me. I've had a lot of amazing things happen and also just put a bit more stress than maybe I'm used to. And for me, one of the things I enjoy doing, particularly because I tend to work from home as well, so the kitchen is always so handy, and because my job is working with food and being the Rawtarian, it feels to me like eating all the time is okay, because I'm eating healthy things and it's research. But anyway, one of the things I kind of started to feel was, 'Okay, I'm in a bit of a rut. I need to challenge myself a little bit and switch up the way I'm eating.' So the first thing I did was kind of become aware of how I was eating and looking at that emotional eating piece. So this is a very simple-- it's basically like, we're not necessarily eating for hunger; we're eating because we feel sad or angry or rejected or many of those negative feelings, and we turn to food, because-- there's so many reasons, but let's just keep it simple; we might wan to eat something to make ourselves feel better about that emotion. So that is the basic concept of emotional eating. And also it can be for happy reasons. I know that's also a habit that my husband and I have, is that when something great happens, we want to go out for dinner and celebrate. And again, nothing wrong with it; it's just the patterns that we're into. So that's the basic concept of emotional eating. So I think we're going to glide through these, and then we're going to talk about the bigger picture and some of the strategies that I've implemented to help me deal with these things.

Situational eating

So if we move on to the next one, which was that situational eating. And I think the perfect example of this is maybe you're at the office and it's-- a situation could be it's 10AM birthday cake office time, and everyone's having that birthday cake and, 'Sure, I'll have this; it's what everyone's doing. And I'm not really hungry if I think about it, but yum, cake.' So that's one example of a situation, and for many of us, it could be, 'Oh, we're at the movies, so we want to have popcorn,' or, we're at home on the couch after dinner, and we want to have a snack. So that is the idea of that situational eating, and it's really just because these are patterns that we've gotten into.

The importance of habits

And as we all know, these patterns are hard to break in so many areas of our lives. And I know that I've talked a lot about this on an earlier podcast, I know I have a good podcast calling Creating Healthy Habits and all of these things, but habits are very important. And as you know, you've probably seen me tweet it out and talk about one of my favorite quotes, when it comes to eating and exercising, as well: It is motivation that gets you started, and it is habit that keeps you going. So I love the concept of habits, and we're going to leave that for now, but basically habits are amazing when you're using them well and they're kind of detrimental and awful when you've gotten into bad habits. It doesn't mean it's not possible to break them, and if you want to talk more about that, you should listen to one of my previous episodes about that, and you can get that at

Boredom eating

But back to the subject at hand; that's the situational one, and then the fourth one would be boredom, which I do a lot as well, particularly sometimes with my work, which is never boring, but sometimes when I'm at the computer and I'm maybe doing some really repetitive task like editing something or, I don't know, editing photos or editing Word documents and things like that, we just get a little bit bored. And to help us focus, we like to have a little snack, because it makes things interesting, and we love to snack. So that's that boredom one as well.

So I've glossed over those, and what I really wanted to talk about was that A, what we want to do is have an awareness, a mindfulness about ourselves and even the people in our lives. Sometimes it can be interesting to watch how people are eating for these different reasons. But what I have done is first I chose to become aware in my own life of what I was doing. So I was pretty much never really reaching hunger state much, just doing a lot of boredom eating, a lot of situational eating. For me, particularly, I'm at my computer, I'll just have a bunch of snacks all day long. And then actually the meals almost became a situational thing, because it was like, 'I'm not hungry, because I've been eating all day, but it's lunchtime, so let's have lunch.'

Creating strategies

So I started to recognize that things were not right, and once I started to pay attention to the different reasons for eating, I began to think, 'Okay, I'm going to need some strategies for each of these ways of eating.' And for me, anyway, I needed a specific strategy for each different issue. So, one, the hunger issue was not even an issue, because I wasn't really getting hungry. So the things that maybe were issues were emotional eating. And for me, what I decided to do was, no, I don't want to do emotional eating, of course. That wasn't my answer for all of them, but for emotional eating, I decided, okay, my strategy for this right now is I don't do emotional eating. I'm eating to live, not living to eat. I am not going to do it. So if I see myself feeling down and wanting to eat emotionally, well, I'm just not going to do it. I'm going to do something else.

Treat yourself (without food)

So for that one, I felt that craving for something. And it wasn't a sugar craving, for example, as a different thing. This would just be like, 'Oh, something bad just happened. What can I do? I'm going to eat emotionally.' So for me, I decided, 'No, I'm not going to do that. When I feel like eating emotionally, I'm just going to treat myself in some other loving way, like maybe have a bath or go for a walk or just watch some sort of indulgent television. I'm going to do something else that's giving me self-care and self-love and is going to make me good.' And of course ideally I could say, 'Oh, I'm going to go for a run instead of doing my emotional eating,' but, okay, that's not realistic. I love you if that's your real life, but that, for me, isn't going to be a realistic strategy, because if I'm feeling down in the dumps and I was reaching for chocolate cake, going for a run is not going to be a good substitute, for me. So for me, for the emotional eating, I decided, 'Okay, no, I'm not going to emotional eat, but I am going to do somehting in the moment that's going to feel good.' And that could be something even bad, like I'm going to go shopping or maybe I could call my mom or do something that's going to make me feel better. Unless I'm emotional eating about my mom, but that's another story. So all of this is to say for me, I had a strategy for emotional eating, which was to do some sort of self-love, self-care, give me something nice that just wasn't food.

Safe snacks

Now, for me and my situational eating, I decided that what I was going to do for that was when I was, let's say, in front of the TV and wanting a snack, I would have some sort of safe snacks that I would allow myself to eat situationally, whenever I felt that way. But I couldn't eat anything; I could have these things, like, let's say, for example, fresh grapes. And so once I made that decision, I thought, 'Okay, I'm going to need to buy at the grocery, when I get my groceries, and spend more money on really nice, healthy situational snacks that will work for when I'm feeling like I want to have a snack and I want to be eating something that's healthy and not too high in fat, not too high in calories and that kind of thing.' Another thing I started doing as well - for me, particularly for the situational one, in front of the TV - was-- I've gone back and forth with herbal tea; it's not raw. I mean, it's water and some herbs. So for me, what I started to do was, okay, I thought I could have some herbal tea instead of whatever snacks-- or if I didn't feel like grapes or that kind of thing. So for me, I made a little list of 'These are the things I'm allowed to eat in front of the TV, when I'm not hungry, but I feel like snacking on something'. And I also have some even more boring snacks like celery sticks. But actually, for me, I haven't even noticed a big difference since I switched to doing that, because I used to have higher fat snacks like, 'I'm in front of the TV; I might as well have another slice of raw, vegan brownie,' which is delicious and healthy, but probably not something that I need to be eating when I'm really not hungry at all, and I'm just wanting to do something with my hands and pop it into my mouth.

So for me, my strategy for that habitual, situational, 'I'm just going to eat because it seems to be the thing to do at this time,' was just to have safe foods or herbal tea or something like that that would allow me to sort of snack, but wouldn't make me feel super full or be eating really heavy things when I'm not even hungry.

Avoiding boredom

And then lastly, that boredom one. For me, it's very tied to situational eating. But actually, I would almost say that's not true. Because I work from home and I don't really have a lot of schedule, for me, to deal with the boredom eating, I just decided, 'I don't want to be bored. I need to be getting out there and scheduling myself more and have more of a life, so that I'm not just sitting around, bored.' Because for me, I have a bad habit of being quite introverted and not scheduling things, not going out and seeing friends, not joining clubs, not doing any of these things. So I'm trying to push myself a little bit more, so that I'm busier with things I actually want to be doing, like meeting friends or going swimming at the pool or going to the library, just fun things that I normally, as an introvert, just think, 'Oh, I'll just stay home instead.' So that was the way I dealt with the bored one, but also it's okay to eat when you're bored. For me, this is how I dealt with it, was-- but maybe I'll just have more of those safe foods, like fresh grapes or some tea or whatever. So I kind of did some overlap there, but also made some changes in my day to day schedule that would mean that I'm not as bored. Not that I was overly bored, but that was how I dealt with it, at any rate.

Food is fuel

So I recognize that this is quite an 'all about me' podcast, but I think what I really want you to have as a takeaway from this episode is if you're not mindful about these issues already, about just the reasons why, I think that's a very excellent first step. And I know for me, it really affected me, because I actually can't believe that I wasn't thinking about the reasons why I was eating. It just wasn't part of my pattern to think about why I was eating. But for me, just that awareness piece really, really started to change the way I was eating every day, because I thought, 'Oh, this is stupid. This is emotional eating; what am I doing? I should stop this and maybe do something else fun,' like I said, call a friend, or if I'm feeling bad, I need to do something else. And again, I'm not trying to say this is solving world problems, but these are good strategies that you can implement. And it doesn't mean that you're never allowed to emotional eat - I've sort of said this already - but it does mean that maybe if you're kind of a tiny bit down in the dumps and you're starting to emotionally eat, and you're like, 'Oh, this is stupid. I don't need to do this.' So it's just a matter of self-awareness, and then putting into practice some strategies, as well. Because I guess overall, one of the big pieces or overall concepts that I started to think about for myself was I really want to just be eating, again, not to starve myself at all. These are really long-term strategies that I want to put into place forever, so I don't want to crash and burn, but just thinking, 'Okay, the point of food is to fuel me up, and it feels good when you just start to feel a little bit hungry once in a while,' and then you think, 'Oh, I'm really hungry; I can't wait to eat something.' Whereas it gets all confusing and our body gets all weirdly confused if we're just putting food in it all the time, when we don't even really want it or need it.

Staying aware

So that is really all I wanted to talk about today. I hope that you found something helpful from this. And I really do think-- although that was a lot about me, I feel that if you're not mindful about this-- and again, I'm not telling you you need to change anything, but just to become aware of it and think, even if it's just like, 'Am I hungry? Am I eating because of emotional reasons, or am I eating for some other reason? What is it? Is it because I'm bored, or is it because I always eat at this time?' And you may have other reasons too. For me, these are the main groups that I seem to see my reasons falling into, but ultimately, that's just a little bit about some of the reasons why you may be eating right now. So are you snacking? Are you listening to this and emotional eating on the couch while you listen to this? If so, I still love you, and nobody's perfect, but I feel that this mindfulness and awareness can help you just to make some really small changes. Because we're not asking you to change completely overnight, and nor am I going to change completely overnight, no matter how much I want to. And ultimately, it's all about the tiny little changes over time. It's all about creating those tiny changes every day. And if you can keep those changes going, you're golden. So we don't have to say overnight, 'I'm never going to emotionally eat. I'm never going to situationally eat. I'll never be boredom eating.' That's probably not necessarily realistic. So you just want to be gentle with yourself, but start with mindfulness about this. Thank you so much for joining me. I would love to hear from you and what you think about all of this stuff. Thank you so much, and I will talk to you next time.

You have been listening to The Raw Food Podcast with your host, the Rawtarian. Be sure to visit me at, where you can browse over 100 of my absolute favorite simple, satisfying, raw, vegan recipes that you'll find pretty quick to make and with just a few ingredients and that taste amazing. While you're there, be sure to sign up for my newsletter, and once you've signed up for that, you'll automatically get a PDF copy of 11 of my most favorite, most satisfying, most delicious recipes, including raw, vegan alfredo sauce, raw brownies, and a whole host of other delicious recipes that you can make at home that are raw and taste amazing. Thank you so much for joining me, and I hope to hear from you very soon. And until next time, enjoy your raw adventure.

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