Have you ever been aimlessly scrolling through social media to then find yourself gorging on food when you’re not even hungry? If this is you, you’ll want to read this article to the end to find out how to stop eating when bored and finally break the habit once and for all.
If you look at the situation a little deeper, you’ll notice a kind of trend develops:
You’re either bored watching TV, or you’re mindlessly lost in a scroll-hole, to then find yourself in the kitchen digging out the ice cream and chips to plow through.
And this isn’t to say you don’t necessarily enjoy healthy eating. Your diet may be very good overall.
But when it comes to feeling bored and eating patterns, it doesn’t matter that you only ate dinner an hour ago and you’re not physically hungry – you still eat the food.
You see, most people know (at least on a subconscious level) that boredom eating doesn’t offer permanent satisfaction.
But what it does offer is potential health complications that are long-lasting.
Not only that, boredom eating can be the catalyst behind lack of weight loss progression, the increased risk of chronic diseases, and a negative emotional relationship with food.
But here’s the good news…
You can break the trend and finally stop boredom eating.
What Is Boredom Eating?
When you feel bored you’re not living in the present moment and you’re experiencing some kind of emptiness.
People don’t like feeling this way so they aim to stop boredom by searching for some kind of meaning and purpose.
However, some people think this meaning and purpose can be found in the form of food, as it offers a pleasurable experience.
The issue here is, that mindless eating – or binge eating – can occur.
Boredom eating is actually considered a type of emotional eating pattern, which can be disregarded by many.
Emotions And The Connection to Eating
When someone is experiencing stress, anger, and frustration, for example, this can lead to stress eating.
Bored eating and emotional eating are usually based on craving something specific, i.e. sugar or savory foods, etc.
The brain tells us that we are feeling hungry when in reality we aren’t.
Whereas when it comes to true physical hunger there is no craving because the body simply wants satisfaction to stay alive.
But, in terms of emotional eating – and when these cravings are met – the person feels like they have hit the jackpot.
They can feel a sense of satisfaction and “happiness” because eating releases dopamine.
However, this feeling is fleeting because people can experience guilt and shame after becoming aware that they have been mindlessly eating.
So then they fall into the same eating patterns, which can be used as a form of coping mechanism to deal with the guilt and shame.
How to Stop Boredom Eating
1. Notice a Pattern
Awareness is everything.
A great way to stop boredom eating is to start to notice the times when boredom eating kicks in and observe the feeling as though you’re a witness.
Be honest with yourself; there is no shame.
Does it happen most when you’re alone, unoccupied, and feeling a little despondent?
Or does stress trigger it?
Is there a trend in the evenings after being at work all day?
Did your boss annoy you so you’re eating candy to try and relieve yourself of anger?
Take note of your patterns, which will enable you to stop boredom eating.
2. Brush Your Teeth
This may sound silly, but when does food ever taste nice after brushing your teeth?
The answer is never.
So instead of rummaging through the cupboards to eat a bunch of calories you don’t need, try brushing your teeth and see how you feel, as it may be the thing you need to help you stop eating.
3. Meal Prep
A regular meal schedule is great for a solid routine and especially good for those wanting to lose weight and follow a healthy eating plan.
That way, everything is laid out and planned, and the urge to snack is minimized greatly.
When some of us don’t plan meals, we can end up skipping them because perhaps we lost track of time and became too busy.
Then healthy eating goes out the window.
This is where constant snacking and overeating can occur.
4. Drink Water
There’s a fine line between hunger and thirst, and it can be easily confused because the signals for both are very similar.
With this in mind, I would always recommend drinking water before eating and waiting 15-30 mins.
This is especially important if you ate within the last hour or so.
I’ve experienced this a bunch of times.
And you don’t need to drink plain water if you think it’s boring. Get some flavor enhancers in it to make it taste nice.
Let’s face it – water is healthier than candy!
5. Eat Enough Protein And Healthy Fats
Although potato chips are tasty and they provide you with a pleasurable experience, the satisfaction is only short-term.
Within an hour your hand is diving back into the bag pulling out more chips, which is not ideal.
When it comes to boredom eating, this is where a diet relatively high in protein and good fats helps.
Both protein and good fats are satiating, meaning they keep you fuller for longer.
And what does being fuller for longer mean?…
You won’t feel the same desire to boredom eat.
Eat plenty of lean meats, eggs, healthy nuts, avocados, and fatty fish.
Aside from helping you steer away from boredom eating, they carry exceptional health benefits.
6. Set Yourself Simple Daily Tasks
We need to have satisfying things to do, and this is why we turn to food because it provides satisfaction.
If you can set yourself some simple daily tasks, this will satisfy your desire for fulfillment without the need to seek it in food.
My advice would be to start off the day by writing a “to do” list that is achievable, yet keeps you plenty active enough throughout the day.
Tick each task off as you go and feel the satisfaction you get from it.
7. Practicing Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is a fantastic technique that can help you conquer boredom eating.
It means you are fully attentive to your food in every way: cooking, buying, serving, and consuming it.
The principles for mindful eating are as follows:
- Focus all your attention on your food and the experience of it
- Eat slowly and without distraction
- Eat only until you are full by listening to hunger cues
- Knowing the difference between true hunger and non-hunger triggers
- Heighten your senses by noticing the colors, sounds, smells, textures, and flavors
- Appreciating your food and not seeing it as something you do on autopilot
Mindful eating isn’t something that tends to work after the first time of trying it, so be patient here.
Remember that we are conditioned when it comes to eating.
Many of us eat on autopilot with one end goal – to be full – and don’t actually focus on all that comes with the eating experience.
Learn to slow down and become aware of all that you’re feeling.
The aim is that your purpose shifts from wanting to eat to be full, to instead being satisfied and full of energy.
Another great trick in the book to avoid boredom eating is to put on your sneakers and do some exercise.
Not only is it a distraction away from eating, but it’s also beneficial for your health.
And another plus is that you’re less likely to want to eat junk food when you’re experiencing that blissful post-workout high with all those endorphins racing around your body.
9. Remove Tempting Foods
You’re more likely to attack the cupboard when you’re bored if you know tasty treats live there.
So the logical thing is to remove any temptation by not allowing them in the house to start with.
Be strict when you’re grocery shopping.
Vow to yourself that you will not pick up the cookies this week, and instead opt for healthy snacks like Greek Yogurt, or nuts, for example.
And here’s a great tip I can share:
If you already have poor food choices in your house that you feel could be too tempting to avoid: make someone hide it and ask them not to tell you where it is.
And if you live alone, then be kind and give it away to a friend or neighbor.
The key is to make life easier for yourself.
When you meditate consistently, you learn to be here now, which is beneficial when it comes to boredom eating.
Boredom eating is an act of impulsiveness, but the great thing about meditation is that it allows you to play more of the role of the “observer”, so you kinda witness your thoughts as if they’re not your own.
This means it allows you to be in that space between stimulus (the thought of eating), and response (actually eating), so the kneejerk reaction to rummage through the freezer for food, lessens.
11. Chew Gum
Whatever room you spend more time in, keep a pack of gum in there with you.
So, if you’re in the front room after dinner and you’re feeling the urge to eat – keep a pack of gum not too far away from you.
Chewing gum can distract the desire to chew and eat other foods, which can help you avoid overeating.
12. Track Your Food Intake
Tracking how much food you’re eating can really put things into perspective when you’re consuming unnecessary calories.
Because think about it:
When you’re not tracking the surplus calories that come with boredom eating on top of your “normal” meals throughout the day, they can mount up to thousands more.
And no, I’m not exaggerating.
So use a food tracker like MyFitnessPal, for example, and track every morsel of food you’re eating over the course of the day.
That way, you might think twice about opening that box of cookies because you’re aware you’ve hit your daily calorie allowance.
And anything more will put you in a calorie surplus, which can lead to weight gain.
Another benefit of tracking your food is, it allows you to increase your knowledge when it comes to portion size to see how much you’re eating per meal.
And this is a life skill to have, especially when eating out and counting calories is not an option.
Remember that bored eating is a temporary “fix” – or solution – to an inner void.
So try using the tips above instead of turning to food to try and fill the void.
Working on stress levels, overall eating habits, and avoiding certain foods will definitely help the desire to turn to food for comfort.
And ensure you’re drinking adequate water every single day, as this makes a huge difference.
If you feel this issue is taking control of your life and that seeking help is an option; I would encourage you to visit a professional to get medically reviewed.
About the author
I'm Chris. I have a vast interest in all things relating to health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition. I also love to improve my mindset and learn how to increase my productivity. If you'd like to say hello or ask me a question, please visit my contact page, and I'd be glad to hear from you. Alternatively, you can find me on Twitter (@liveliftlife).