So many of us eat due to boredom – and we either don’t even realize it, or we get disappointed in ourselves after the fact.
But just because boredom eating is so common in our daily lives, does NOT mean we have to keep doing it.
Now our brains NEED a break from work, it’s absolutely normal and healthy to give your brain a change in focus. In fact, research shows that we when take planned breaks, we’re more productive!
Here are some positive outcomes we see when we STOP eating from boredom and start mindful eating:
stabilized blood sugar so we’re not crashing every few hours (did you know stabilizing blood sugar can improve your mood, reduce fatigue, increase your energy levels, and improved brain and blood vessel health, and even reduce your risk of nerve and kidney damage?!)
decreased overall calories, often leading to easy, effortless weight loss
increased confidence in self-control
even saving money on groceries!
Are You Eating Because of Boredom?
In general, if you’re not hungry, you’re emotionally eating – and one of these emotions is often boredom.
Here are some situations where I commonly see people eating when they’re feeling bored – do you see yourself eating in any of these situations?
in front of the TV on your 4th consecutive episode of The Office
you just can’t face working on that paper
you need a break from editing that excel sheet
on the phone with your mom who’s telling you about the neighbors for the 100th time
Write down on a notepad or in the notes section of your phone your eating habits and times when you think you’re eating because you’re feeling bored rather than eating because you truly feel hungry. That way you will be able to realize when it’s boredom hunger, and when it’s real hunger.
How To Stop Eating Out of Boredom
Alright now that we’ve identified some times we’re eating from boredom and that our hunger is actually boredom hunger, let’s talk about how to put a stop to it, and how to change our eating habits and start practising mindful eating.
FIX YOUR MINDSET
First of all, how is something classified as “boring”? Different things are boring to different people – some people find exercise boring, but for others, it could be the highlight of their day.
The key is how you THINK about the task. When we’re bored, we’re typically thinking thoughts that make us feel negatively. For example, the thought:
“this is boring” can make you feel annoyed
“this is awful” can make you feel frustrated
“this is so unnecessary” can make you feel anxious
It makes sense then, that when we’re bored, we want to feel a positive emotion instead – and we think that this positive emotion will come from food. For example:
The thought “This tastes so good” could make you feel happy
The thought “This is just what I need” could make you feel content
However – let’s challenge this.
When you do end up eating when you weren’t hungry, does the positive feeling from the food last? Likely not. Yes, there is a quick release of endorphins, but then you likely will get a lot of back & forth brain chatter about what happened.
“I shouldn’t have done that.”
“Ugh I’m so bad.”
“Why can’t I have more self control?”
AND, what can often happen, is that we feel that we’ve “blown it” – and make poor eating choices the rest of the day. The positive feeling from boredom eating is short lived, and often leaves you feeling worse.
So how can you fix your thoughts? Try some of these thoughts instead:
“I can’t want to finish this task so I can do what I really WANT to be doing right now”
“How can I make this task more enjoyable?”
“Everyone has to do some tasks they don’t want to do in life, this is just one of those for me!”
This mindset shift, I find, is the true key to stopping boredom eating.
TRY TO NOT HAVE JUNK FOOD EASILY AVAILABLE
“Out of sight, out of mind” is such a helpful strategy too. Try to keep junk food like a bag of chips, ice cream and candy in a high cabinet or the freezer. Pre-baggie snack foods into single-serving containers as well for easier portion-control. Eat food that nourishes your body!
Of course if you truly feel hungry, you should eat! Try some of these healthy snacks that include protein & fat to keep you full:
nuts (portion out 1/8 cup or 1/4 cup ahead of time!)
a high fat yogurt (for both protein and fat) – try to choose one with less than 15 gm sugar per serving
2 hard boiled eggs and 1 string cheese
an apple with 1-2 Tbsp peanut butter
water (always drink water!)
CHANGE YOUR TV ROUTINE
Watching TV is such a boredom eating culprit! Change up your nighttime or weekend TV watching routine to avoid too many unwanted calories here (has anyone else become a bottomless pit in front of the TV?)
First, decide how many episodes or movies you will watch
Set an alarm on your phone to go off after this amount of time
Bring with you a glass of water or seltzer so you can keep your hands busy and so you can drink water and see if the “hunger” disappears
If you do find yourself getting bore
d when watching, either turn the TV off and do something else, or get a book or your computer to multitask
Changing up your routine with anything improves your creativity and neuroplasticity. Try it in other areas of your life, not just while watching TV!
LEARN YOUR HUNGER & FULLNESS SIGNALS
Learning your hunger & fullness signals is crucial, not only for stopping boredom eating, but for your overall health.
A good thing to first to is learn the hunger/ fullness scale. There are many versions of this – but here’s essentially what they say:
Starving, weak, dizzy
Very hungry, cranky, low energy, lots of stomach growling
Pretty hungry, stomach is growling a little
Starting to feel a little hungry
Satisfied, neither hungry nor full
A little full, pleasantly full
A little uncomfortable
Very uncomfortable, stomach hurts
So full you feel sick
Pay attention to how you’re feeling for the next few days before, during, and after you’re eating. What are your physical hunger & fullness signals? Here are some examples:
Common hunger signals:
a feeling in your stomach
Common fullness signals:
nothingness in your stomach
pressure in your stomach
When we eat when bored, and not from physical hunger, it just doesn’t feel good. It truly feels BETTER to eat when we actually feel hungry for nourishment. As Tribole says, “hunger is the best sauce”.
Again, learning your body’s hunger & fullness signals not only will help with boredom eating, but it’s good for your overall health, weight management, and even weight loss.
Let me know if you try any of these ideas, and remember to eat food when you actually feel hungry, not when you’re bored!