Out of all the reasons we eat, boredom eating has got to be the least helpful. It can result in consuming a lot more calories than you need, thus leading to weight gain.
Some of us have a tendency to eat when we are bored because we have trouble deciphering between physical hunger and psychological hunger. Knowing the difference between the two can help you identify whether you are truly hungry or just looking for a distraction to help occupy your time. There are also steps you can take to prevent boredom eating and mindless snacking before they have a chance to occur.
Prevent Boredom Eating with These Tips
1) Identify Your Eating Triggers
Knowing what triggers your boredom heating can prevent it from happening in the first place. When you find yourself eating out of boredom, what are you typically doing? Common answers include sitting down on the couch in the evening to watch T.V. or reaching for a snack while stuck in traffic. Once you identify what triggers you to eat, work on being more consciously present in those moments to recognize that food is not actually what you want.
2) Find a Healthy Distraction
If you’re bored, try preventing the urge to snack by shifting your attention to a healthy outlet. This can be going on a walk outside, cleaning your house, meditating, reading a book or working on your favorite hobby. You might not have any big plans going on, but you can find energizing breaks in your day by doing small activities that bring you simple joy or satisfaction.
3) Look for Physical Hunger Signals
If you can’t figure out whether you are physically hungry or psychologically hungry, look for these physical hunger symptoms that often accompany a lack of energy from food:
- Hunger that gradually builds and doesn’t stop
- Stomach growling
- Feeling of lightheadedness
4) Plan Ahead for Quality Meals and Snacks
Having a plan for what to eat throughout the day can prevent you from reaching for something that isn’t nutritious or beneficial to your body. If you normally feel the urge to eat in the evenings while winding down, plan to keep nutrient-dense snacks on-hand. For example: apple slices and nut butter, veggies and yogurt dip, portion-controlled nuts and dried fruit, turkey/cheese rollups and edamame. The protein and fiber can help you stay full and prevent cravings.
5) Try to Avoid Multitasking
You can be bored and multitask at the same time! Think about all the times you flip your attention between the T.V., social media, texting a friend, playing a game or reading a book/magazine. It is during these idle times that we often reach for food to give us something physical to do while we are redirecting our mental energy. To avoid this, try making a conscious effort to avoid multitasking and focus all your energy on one activity at a time.
6) Carry a Drink Bottle and Gum with You
Sometimes the problem is having an oral fixation that is similar to what an ex-smoker or drinker might struggle with. To combat this urge with something less harmful, try carrying around a pack of gum and a drink bottle that has water, tea, or another healthy drink in it. You can sip on it regularly and chew your gum to help satisfy the need to engage your mouth. Sipping from a water bottle is especially helpful for staying hydrated.
It can be difficult to change your habits and build a healthier lifestyle, but it’s worth it! Boredom eating on a regular basis is not healthy for your relationship with food or for your body in general. We all do it occasionally, but making it a habit is not good for your well-being. If you need further help to combat boredom eating or even emotional eating, try seeking help from a registered dietitian, psychologist, or even support from a circle of people in your life that you trust.
Another good resource on this topic is this article about mindful eating from the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), Producer of the Your Weight Matters Campaign.