It’s dinnertime and you’re hungry but nothing sounds good. You open the fridge, close it. Open it, close it. You wander out of the kitchen, then wander back in. It’s an aimless feeling.
For this reason, let’s call it “Aimless Hunger” when you’re hungry but nothing sounds good. And if your goal is to reach your natural weight or stop overeating, you might be tempted to skip a meal when you feel Aimless Hunger.
But skipping a meal — especially when you’re hungry — usually leads to overeating later on. This creates the well-known “yo-yo” dieting effect, and it can be frustrating, to say the least.
So if you’re trying to stop patterns of overeating, I hope this post helps you navigate the inevitable moments of Aimless Hunger.
At the end of this post, there’s also a free ebook on eating psychology that you can download. If you want it now, click here to gain instant access to it!
Why am I hungry but nothing sounds good?
When you’re hungry but nothing sounds good, it can be a good thing. Usually, it means you’re hungry on a purely physical level, not an emotional level.
To see what I mean, let’s take a quick look at some eating psychology. (If you’re new around here, this is the home of Psycho-Spiritual Wellness: a path to stopping overeating that focuses on eating psychology and spirituality.)
Many recovering overeaters experience hunger as an emergency. Eating becomes urgent because we aren’t just eating for hunger, we’re eating for other reasons — psychological reasons.
We eat because other people are eating, we eat for energy instead of taking a nap, we eat preemptively to prevent “hanger”… and it’s these other needs that make hunger feel like an emergency.
When we feel hungry but nothing sounds good, nothing feels like an emergency. And we can turn this into a good thing, because it means we have a little calmness and clarity to inform our eating choices.
Should I eat when I’m hungry but nothing sounds good?
Next you might be wondering what to do with Aimless Hunger.
And my answer would be to eat. Whenever you’re hungry, you should eat. Your body requires fuel to function. This is the first of the 3 Psycho-Spiritual Wellness Eating Guidelines: eat exactly what appeals to you when you’re hungry.
(Of course, the dilemma here is that you don’t know what appeals to you, but we’ll get to that next. First, let’s talk about the eating part.)
When you don’t eat when you’re hungry, you may end up undereating, which slows your metabolism and increases hormones that make high-calorie foods sound better. Of course, this doesn’t hit you until later, making you prone to night eating. It’s a vicious cycle.
So the answer is yes, when you’re hungry but nothing sounds good, you should still eat. But what?
When nothing sounds good, it means that you can use kindness to inform what you eat. This may sound too airy fairy to be helpful, but it’s a powerful nuance.
What to eat when I’m hungry but nothing sounds good?
Whenever you feel hungry but nothing sounds good, ask yourself, “What is the kindest thing I can do for myself right now?”
It could be a turkey and avocado sandwich. Or it could be pizza. And this is where many of us panic…
Many of us worry that we would eat pizza 24/7 if we always did “the kind thing.” But I honestly don’t think that’s true. At least, not in the long-run.
In the short-term, sure. Pizza might happen, and it might actually be “the kind thing!”
Because if you’re afraid of carbs, it means you probably restrict carbs, which means they have a lot of psychological currency (i.e. they’re worth a lot more joy, rebellion, and satisfaction than if they were allowed).
This is why permission is essential to stop overeating. For every restriction there is an equal and opposite binge. Take away the restriction and you take away one of the biggest triggers for binge eating.
So yeah, if you’ve made carbs off-limits (like most people), then eating pizza might actually be the kind thing to do (because you’re not treating yourself like a misbehaving child anymore). And here’s the good news:
As you begin to allow carbs, they lose their psychological currency. Suddenly, they become normal. Since you know you can have pizza whenever you want, it loses it’s magnetic pull. Suddenly it’s not pizza!!! It’s just… pizza.
After a few weeks or months of this, your body may naturally start craving different foods. Perhaps you crave a chicken Caesar salad one day and still crave pizza another day. Your body knows how to find equilibrium on its own. You just need to get your intellect out of the way.
How much should you eat when have Aimless Hunger?
When you’re hungry but nothing sounds good, it’s likely that your appetite is small. Even though you’re hungry, you may find that your body doesn’t need as much fuel as when you’re hungry and you know exactly what you want.
Because of this, be prepared to eat something small or take a half-eaten sandwich to-go. Don’t let the fear of wasting food or flavor get in your way.
Also, if you struggle with stopping yourself from finishing a plate of food halfway, this is where I think you’ll really love Psycho-Spiritual Wellness, because this is my jam!
I created a tool called the Stop, Drop, & Feel that can help you stop yourself in the middle of a binge. (This is the “spiritual” part of Psycho-Spiritual Wellness.) And it definitely applies to those moments of Aimless Hunger.
Because if you become tempted to overeat in this situation, it means there’s something deeper going on.
Bonus: Even if we feel lost sometimes, we all have a strength around food. Do you think I can guess yours? Give me one shot. There’s a quiz at the end of this post to discover your eating psychology strength. Click here to jump straight to it.
If you can’t stop eating once you’ve started
Behind every desire to eat when you aren’t hungry is an unwanted feeling. And you’re either not aware of it or you just don’t want to deal with it. (No shame, this is how most of us live our lives — myself included before!)
The Stop, Drop, & Feel helps you lean into this avoidance, which helps take the edge off the compulsion. I have watched it dissolve my desire to overeat over and over again. (This tool is so important that I eventually created an entire masterclass on it.)
Here’s how it works:
Stop yourself before you’ve gone any further (this is the hard part for most of us, which I address in the video), drop into your body, and ask yourself how you’re feeling.
While this may sound too simple to stop a “hardcore binge,” I am confident that you’ll be surprised. I always am!
When we do this practice and stop shoving our feelings down, they stop driving us towards compulsion. While this may sound too simple to stop a “hardcore binge,” I am confident that you’ll be surprised. I always am!
You’re now prepared to handle hunger when nothing sounds good!
Now you know exactly what to do with Aimless Hunger. When you’re hungry but nothing sounds good, you should still eat. And if you feel confused about what to eat, try and do the kindest thing possible.
If you worry that you won’t stop eating once you’re full, use tools like the Stop, Drop, & Feel to address the deeper psycho-spiritual aspect of compulsive eating.
And to dive deeper into these concepts, be sure to grab my free ebook below. It comes with a free 5-day course in Psycho-Spiritual Wellness to catch you up to speed!
Dee Snutts says
This doesn’t really help. Its 6pm. Ive been awake since 8am. Haven’t eaten a single thing. Im starving but whatever I think about eating makes me wanna throw up. Nothing sounds good, literally.
Kari Dahlgren says
I definitely recommend seeing a doctor, Dee. Nausea is a serious issue and if you aren’t eating you could develop serious health issues. I hope a medical professional is able to help you solve the nausea issue! I’m so sorry to hear that you’re struggling with it.