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Learn more about the results we get at Within

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How to stop thinking about food

Food is an essential part of life. We need to have it every day, and we couldn’t live without it, so it’s natural to think about food on a regular basis.

However, thinking about food obsessively can become a problem, especially if it disrupts your daily life or leads to other unhelpful thoughts or behaviors. But if you're struggling with these types of thoughts, there are some strategies that may be able to help you overcome food obsession.

Last updated on 
July 7, 2023
July 7, 2023
In this article

Why do people think about food?

Food plays a central role in many ceremonies, traditions, rituals, and other social gatherings across nearly every culture on Earth. And even at its most basic level, food is something we literally need to survive and maintain basic metabolic functions.

Thinking about food is perfectly normal, and there are many reasons why people think about food regularly. 

Social situations
Disordered thinking

How to stop thinking about food 

There's nothing wrong with thinking about food. But if you find your food thoughts are bordering on obsession or are otherwise becoming problematic, there are some tips to stop constantly thinking about food, diet, or eating.

Some good places to start include:

  • Showing yourself some grace. Shame and guilt can be driving forces behind many disordered eating thoughts and patterns, including binge eating.5 Giving yourself the space and acceptance to have your own relationship with food and eating may help you let go of some of these thoughts.
  • Drinking enough water. On the physiological side, you may be thinking about food because you're hungry, especially if you're dieting or otherwise restricting food intake. Proper hydration may help reduce cravings for certain highly-palatable foods, which may help your mind move on from these thoughts.6
  • Finding something else to do. Many times, people think about food when they're bored. But there are other ways to keep yourself occupied. If you find yourself fixating on food, try taking a break to stretch, go for a walk, read something, or call up a friend instead.
  • Keeping your patterns in mind. When you find yourself thinking about food, take note: Are you angry? Bored? Stressed out? Sad? Many people eat as an emotional response. Keeping track of your emotional state may be a good way to remind yourself that your thoughts about food may actually be tied to something else entirely.

It should be noted that these tips are not intended to help someone lose weight. Instead, they should help someone free themself from food guilt and other negative thought patterns that can lead to food obsession.

Woman looking into a mirror

How to build a better relationship with food

At the core of most cases of food obsession is an unhealthy relationship with food and eating. But there are other tips that can help you proactively work on this important relationship.

Identifying and honoring hunger cues

One approach for creating a healthier relationship with food is by practicing intuitive eating.7 This mindset can help people learn to tune into their own body for an understanding of when they’re hungry, how hungry they are, and what types of food they want.

The practice of intuitive eating can be challenging, especially at first. It may involve examining the many ways that diet culture has created feelings of shame around hunger, cravings, and enjoyment of food. Many people have heard so many messages from the diet industry about how to control or eliminate hunger that they are scared of tuning into their bodies' hunger cues. Other people may not have regular hunger cues due to a history of disordered eating or other medical conditions. 

An important part of intuitive eating is making sure that you are eating enough food to meet your body’s needs and not physically or mentally restricting. As discussed earlier in this article, both physical and mental restriction can lead to obsessive thoughts about food and may result in feeling out of control around food. 

Eating adequately and consistently, making sure no foods are off-limits (unless there is a medical need to avoid them, like an allergy), and giving full permissions to honor specific food cravings can be helpful steps for moving away from restriction and towards a more intuitive relationship with food. 

Incorporating pleasure and satisfaction 

Having a healthy relationship with food can look different for different people. For some people, practicing intuitive eating will, over time, lead to an approach to eating that satisfies their physical needs and enables food to be a source of pleasure and connection.

An intuitive relationship with food can incorporate flexibility, responding to cravings without judgment, and thinking about food in relation to logistics and enjoyment but without obsessing over it. 

Other people may need more structure to make sure that they are eating an amount and variety of foods to meet their nutritional needs. People who have a history of eating disorders or disordered behaviors, people with certain health conditions, and people who have a limited palate may need to be more intentional about what and when they eat to make sure they are getting enough energy and nutrients.

It may be helpful for these individuals to work with a registered dietitian to develop strategies to meet their nutritional needs without having to think about food constantly. 

Practice mindful eating

Mindful eating has emerged as a popular strategy to help with being fully present and engaged while eating. 

Borrowing from other mindfulness practices, which stress the importance of observing and absorbing the present moment, mindful eating is about paying greater attention to the eating experience. Followers are asked to consider the taste, texture, and smell of every bite, rather than being preoccupied with shame, anxiety, or judgment about food and eating.

Mindful eating can also be helpful for developing a more intuitive relationship with food. Remaining in the present moment with all the sensations brought on by food and eating can help you more deeply understand how certain foods make you feel, mentally and physically.

It can also help you more naturally respond to your own hunger and fullness cues, rather than relying on societal norms or diet culture messages.

Finding help for an eating disorder

Even people who eat intuitively and are present and mindful while eating must think about food every day. Whether in its planning, preparation, or purchasing, food is an essential part of life.

But if you find yourself thinking about food constantly and obsessively, and if this creates distress and disruption in your life, it could be a sign of restriction, disordered eating, or other mental health challenges.

If this is the case, help is available and we encourage you to reach out for support. Everyone deserves to nourish their body and enjoy food without obsession and distress.

Call (866) 293-0041

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.


  1. Rossi, M. A., & Stuber, G. D. (2018). Overlapping Brain Circuits for Homeostatic and Hedonic Feeding. Cell metabolism, 27(1), 42–56.
  2. Blechert, J., Klackl, J., Miedl, S. F., & Wilhelm, F. H. (2016). To eat or not to eat: Effects of food availability on reward system activity during food picture viewing. Appetite, 99, 254–261.
  3. Ziauddeen, H., Alonso-Alonso, M., Hill, J. O., Kelley, M., & Khan, N. A. (2015). Obesity and the neurocognitive basis of food reward and the control of intake. Advances in Nutrition, 6(4), 474–486. 
  4. Gordon, E. L., Ariel-Donges, A. H., Bauman, V., & Merlo, L. J. (2018). What Is the Evidence for "Food Addiction?" A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 10(4), 477.
  5. Craven, M. P., & Fekete, E. M. (2019). Weight-related shame and guilt, intuitive eating, and binge eating in female college students. Eating Behaviors, 33, 44–48.
  6. Carroll, H. A., Templeman, I., Chen, Y. C., Edinburgh, R., Burch, E. K., Jewitt, J. T., Povey, G., Robinson, T. D., Dooley, W. L., Buckley, C., Rogers, P. J., Gallo, W., Melander, O., Thompson, D., James, L. J., Johnson, L., & Betts, J. A. (2019). Hydration status affects thirst and salt preference but not energy intake or postprandial ghrelin in healthy adults: A randomised crossover trial. Physiology & Behavior, 212, 112725.
  7. Colarossi, J. (2021, March 31). How Eating Competence and Intuitive Eating Can Improve Your Relationship with Food. Boston University. Accessed June 2023.


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