For you “normal” eaters out there who eat in response to physiological hunger signals, you would complete this sentence by saying, “Before I ate, I was feeling hungry”. Being “hungry” may manifest itself in mild tummy rumbles, light-headedness, weakness, or other noticeable physical symptoms that your body needs more fuel in the form of food.
If normal eating is still not natural for you (read my post on the book “The Rules of Normal Eating” by Karen R. Koenig), you might end this sentence a variety of different ways:
Before I ate, I was feeling ravenous: You let yourself get too hungry and then ended up eating a larger amount of food that you normally would have (and lightning fast too, I would imagine). Eating regular meals and planned snacks can prevent this.
Before I ate, I was feeling bored: You use food to deal with uncomfortable emotions, like boredom, loneliness, depression. Meeting your needs through mental stimulation, spending time with friends, and talking to someone about your feelings needs to be top priority.
Before I ate, I was feeling anxious/sad/angry: This is a typical emotional eating scenario, where you turn to food to deal with difficult situations, rather than, for example, talking over finances with your spouse, asking for a pay raise, confronting your relative, setting boundaries, mourning a loss. How can you be strengthened and enable to deal with the issues of life, rather than being disabled by a numbing food experience?
Before I ate, I was feeling exhausted: Fatigue from overwhelming demands or being just plain tired after a day at work can lead to mindless eating of snack foods in front of the television. It seems comforting in a way to robotically move the crispy, crunchy, salty foods from bag to mouth as you watch one of your favorite shows. It is one of the least helpful forms of comfort, however. Have you tried stress management, a good night’s sleep, or maybe waiting until after a balanced dinner to turn on the Tube?
Before I ate, I was feeling: Feelings can be scary. Sometimes strong positive or negative feelings are linked with a need to eat whether because celebrations always involved food, heartbreaks were consoled with a box of chocolate, or because you have found that food is your friend that protects you, desensitizes you, and takes care of you.
What is your main impetus to eat? What are you feeling physically or emotionally before you decide to eat?