It is a common sequence of events:
You are bored watching TV, walk into the kitchen, only to realize you are not even hungry. But still, you continue to find something to munch on like chips or ice cream.
Eating out of boredom may offer temporary satisfaction, but it can have negative and lasting impacts on health. Bored eating may impede weight loss, increase the risk of chronic diseases, and lead to a negative relationship with food to name a few.
Fortunately, one can break the sequence! Learn practical ways to stop boredom eating right in its tracks.
What Is Boredom Eating?
Boredom is essentially a feeling of emptiness, and not feeling present and interested in the current surrounding. To reestablish meaning and relieve boredom, people may turn to food. This often results in unintentional, mindless eating.
Bored eating is a type of emotional eating pattern. In terms of boredom, emotional eating is a temporary solution to escaping the bored self.
Emerged feelings of frustration and anger can also lead to stress eating. These emotion-based eating patterns are not led by true physical hunger, which is a physical need for food.
Instead, bored and emotional eating are often craving-based. Cravings are not exclusive to one food, and people are more apt to feel "good" or satisfied due to endorphin release.
Despite these instant gratifications, people often feel guilty after eating and boredom remains. This can lead to a vicious cycle, though one can take practical steps to stop eating when bored.
How to Stop Eating When Bored
From quenching that thirst to taking a walk, put these healthy tips into practice when bored eating starts to emerge.
Drink a Glass of Water
Dehydration and thirst can easily be mistaken for hunger. So instead of reaching for a bag of chips or other "junk foods", pour a glass of water. After drinking it, reevaluate your hunger scale.
Also, try sipping on other low-calorie beverages to quench thirst. These may include a hot cup of coffee or refreshing glass of green tea with a squeeze of lemon.
Plate Your Food
When it comes to boredom eating, the mind may be running aimlessly.
To get a better grip on food intake, plate your food to help the brain back on track. Plating food will also help reduce mindlessly reaching into a bag of chips in bouts of boredom.
Take a Walk
First, a brisk or leisurely walk can distract the mind from focusing on foods in absence of hunger. Walking also has many proven health benefits, including those that positively impact emotional and mental health.
Walking with someone can further sidetrack you from boredom eating and prosper miles of steps and good conversation!
Read Your Favorite Book
Let your mind drift away in your favorite book. The focus will be on getting lost in the story rather than fixating on a perceived food craving.
Other mind-stimulating activities include drawing, coloring, and puzzles. Really, try to find a hobby that leaves you feeling fulfilled.
Chew on Gum
Keep a pack of gum in the kitchen or areas you often find yourself. If you tend to snack while watching television, gum would be notable in the living room.
Ultimately, popping in a piece of gum can help distract the desire to chew and snack on other foods. Brushing your teeth can also be helpful to curb cravings.
When Bored Eating Isn't Bored Eating
Sometimes physical hunger really does strike and heading to the kitchen was not boredom-based.
After paying attention to hunger cues and noticing a growling stomach, eat a healthy snack. The snacks below are balanced with protein, fiber, and healthy fat to satisfy hunger (and maybe even help you lose weight)!
Greek Yogurt & Fruit
Fruit offers natural sweetness to beat that sweet tooth. It also supplies essential fiber to increase satiety and other essential nutrients.
Fruit also contains the natural sugar fructose, which can cause blood sugar to spike when eaten alone. Eating fruit with a protein-rich dairy source helps stabilize blood sugar and prevents it from fluctuating.
Carrots & Hummus
Wanting a little crunch without packing on calories? Chips are generally empty calories, meaning they bulk up calories without benefiting nutrients.
Carrots and hummus provide ample amounts of nutrients and healthy fats while keeping calories in check.
Screen time typically raises the chance of boredom eating. However, family movie night does not have to fully void traditional snacks.
Skip the added butter and oils for guilt-free, light popcorn. Sprinkle with taco seasoning, a ranch packet, or cinnamon to spice up the flavor.
If craving crunch and a little salt, look no further. Nuts offer natural fats that are appreciated by the body.
Since nuts are rich in calories, try sticking to a small handful rather than a large snack cup.
Unlike most snack foods that pack on calories without offering nutrients, cheese supplies protein, healthy fat, and calcium.
The nutritional totality of a cheese stick allows for satiation. Pair with whole-grain crackers or cucumbers if desiring a little added crunch!
The Bottom Line on Bored Eating
Bored eating is a type of emotional eating pattern that often serves as a temporary solution to often negative feelings. If feeling bored, rather than turning to and eating foods, use the tips above to fill any void.
However, if truly feeling hungry, it is important to address it by eating meals and snacks rich in nutrients. Ensure you are also drinking water, managing stress, practicing mindful eating, and other healthy habits to mitigate against binge eating bouts.
If struggling to manage boredom eating, consider reaching out to a Registered Dietitian or another healthcare professional. They can help create a plan to not only create healthier eating habits but target underlying triggers.