“I’m bored, what’s there to eat?” If I had a dollar for every time I said this, I would be rich by now! Who else can relate?!
Have you ever noticed that while you have “nothing to do” your mind wanders to the unhealthy foods you have stashed away in your cupboards or you can’t stop thinking about the mouthwatering brownie recipe video you watched on Facebook? You feel like your craving won’t be fully satisfied or go away until you give in. Just as sadness, despair, anger and other emotions can trigger you to eat, emotional eating also corresponds with boredom eating. We often crave unhealthy foods when we are feeling emotions such as these (sadness, boredom, anger, etc.) because they increase our levels of dopamine which makes us feel better and gives us a sense of pleasure.
For many, eating is a coping mechanism and often a go to coping mechanism when bored. Snacking during times of boredom helps to give us the “excitement and pleasure” we are looking for. The more we snack when we are bored, the more we look towards food to alleviate our boredom. This can create secondary emotional consequences like guilt and shame, and may lead to more emotional eating; creating an ugly cycle.
So how do we get out of this cycle?
- Identify your triggers and situations in which you find that you are bored—Do you feel bored after dinner before going to bed? Do you find yourself mindlessly snacking after work/school before dinner? Instead of turning to food try to keep busy try cleaning out your junk drawer, organizing your closet, or get your clothes ready for the next day. This "busy work" may not bring about the same "pleasure" that foods do, but it will help you feel proud that you flexed your "willpower muscle" and didn't give in to you boredom!
- Scan your body for aches and tension. Sometimes aches and tension can trigger stress and anxiety, causing us to eat.
- Plan your meals and snacks—I’m a HUGE advocate for this one. I go grocery shopping Sunday mornings and decide what I am going to have for each meal during the week. Then my husband and I cook every Sunday evening for the whole week. This takes the guess work out of what you’re going to eat and when, it frees up your time for other things during the week, and you know when your next meal will be. Make sure to add some variety in you meals so that you don’t feel tempted to stray form the plan. if it doesn't have enough variety! * This isn’t for everyone, but give a try for 2-3 weeks and see how it goes! *
- Make sure you’re hitting your “macros”. This means make sure you’re getting enough protein, carbs, and healthy fats to fuel your body with what it needs and helps you to feel full longer.
- Make sure you’re drinking enough water. Sometimes we get confused on whether we are hungry or thirsty. Try drinking a full glass of water first before reaching for a snack.
- Distract yourself—read a book, call a friend, knit, photograph nature, put your phone down and go for a walk, anything to keep your mind and hands busy!
- Chew mint gum or brush your teeth. Gum can help satisfy your chewing craving and brushing your teeth can help curb your appetite because you don’t want “ruin” that clean brushed feeling.
If you try implementing some of these things and you still find yourself aimlessly eating, it may be an indicator that you are eating to fill other needs and not just to relieve boredom. You may need to take a look at deeper rooted issues or stressors.
And as always, don’t hesitate to reach out for support if you think you may need it!