When the Urge Hits: Questions to Ask


best-and-worst-foods-for-your-fridge-and-freezer-artI have this particular blog post by Darla printed out and hanging on my wall. Since being at Green Mountain, I am so much better at connecting my overeating with negative feelings like frustration, jealousy or inadequacy.

But I forget that sometimes the urge to eat may not be so complex. Maybe it isn’t always driven by an unpleasant feeling – maybe it’s just…familiar?

Now I have a set of questions I ask myself when the urge strikes, thanks to this article by Darla. Take a look, print it out, and keep it close. You might just discover something new about your emotional overeating.

When you are looking for help to stop emotional overeating, realize you can respond to upset or distress by mindlessly eating.  Or the eating can become habituated without you realizing it. If you find yourself sitting in your favorite chair with the remote and you are prompted to get the food, hungry or not, it’s a habit.

Charles Duhigg, author of  “The Power of Habit” discusses how to recognize and get to know your habits and the cues that prompt them. He says:

Every habit has a cue, and experiments have shown that almost all habitual cues fit into one of five categories:

  • Location
  • Time
  • Emotional state
  • Other people
  • Immediately preceding action

So, if you’re trying to figure out the cue for the ‘going to the cafeteria and buying a chocolate chip cookie’ habit, you write down five things the moment the urge hits (these are my actual notes from when I was trying to diagnose my habit):

  • Where are you? (sitting at my desk)
  • What time is it? (3:36 pm)
  • What’s your emotional state? (bored)
  • Who else is around? (no one)
  • What action preceded the urge? (answered an email)

After just a few days, it was pretty clear which cue was triggering my cookie habit — I felt an urge to get a snack at a certain time of day. The habit, I had figured out, was triggered between 3:00 and 4:00.

So looking at your habits and learning about your patterns can allow you to get to know them.  By moving from mindless eating to curiosity you can gather information and start the process of awareness, and eventually change.

What place(s) prompt you to eat habitually?  Do you know when that behavior started?

Image by Thinkstock

3 responses to “When the Urge Hits: Questions to Ask”

  1. debbiew48 says:

    I like this blog very much

  2. Harriet Krivit says:

    Re: “When the Urge Hit’s”..Why are “choc.chip cookies or the like always mentioned as a trigger? My inner voice usually says “have a carrot or an apple” something very rational and that I enjoy and not going to lead to more. Sweets are just part of my eating “spasms”, not the b-all and end-all as I want to succomb to eating ALL foods…salt /sweet/dairy hot/cold veggies /protein etc., etc.. But the “eat something” message always blocks out my history and struggle.

  3. Julianne says:

    Awesome! Thank you for sharing Darla’s post. I always thought that my “stress eating” has no pattern. It will be helpful to learn what triggers it. My craving is flavored yogurt and crackers. During a difficult period in my life I gained a lot of weight. When the dust settled down, I just noticed my craving slowly going away and with it the pounds. That’s when I realized I was “stress eating”.

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