If you’re anything like me at all, you’ve succumbed more than your fair share of times to boredom eating. It’s extremely easy to do any time of the day, and rarely does nutrition enter the factor when boredom eating is taking place. In fact, my staples for boredom eating usually consist of chips, cookies, leftover pizza, and maybe even ice-cream… because if you’re going to eat bored, it may as well be good, right?
The problem with boredom eating, much like late night snacking, is that there really isn’t a need for us to do it. Boredom eating is simply that; eating when you’re bored. It’s appealing to your immediate senses and gives you something to do for the time being.
Those cookies look like they taste good, and since I have nothing better to do, why don’t I go grab a few?
You’re certainly not hungry, and your body probably isn’t lacking nutrients; so boredom eating – aside from pleasing your tastes buds for the moment, actually ends up serving no purpose whatsoever.
Why Is Boredom Eating So Easy?
Even if you can’t tell from reading this website, I’m pretty big when it comes to diet and fitness, and questions that involve nutrition and exercise are ones I hear on a regular basis, both in person and via email. Now that doesn’t mean I live in the gym and spend all day pumping iron, as I have no desire to start looking like the Hulk, but it does mean I try and avoid junk food as often as possible and that I do my best to stay fit and trim. A lot of people have found that when it comes to adjusting their diet or cutting things out, boredom eating usually becomes a problem regardless of their current fitness level.
Why IS boredom eating so easy though? Why do we crave foods that are fatty, have high-sodium content, and have low nutritional value?
One of the reasons has to do with the way certain foods stimulate the pleasure centers in our brain, causing us to crave and want more even though we’re not actually hungry. Usually this results in us eating far too much than we anticipated and then “crashing” when we least expect it. Why? For starters, most foods that are high in fat are also extremely high in sodium. Look at the nutritional information for any fast food restaurant or big restaurant chain and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.
The more fat we put into our body, the more we crave it. Ever noticed when you’re eating out somewhere and you get extremely full, how you’ll continue to pick at your plate, still eating even though your body is saying it doesn’t need any more? Combine that with the fact that you just put a day’s worth of sodium into your system, and it’s easy to see why you end up crashing directly afterwards (high amounts of sodium cause us to feel lethargic and drowsy.)
That’s a more scientific explanation of why eating improperly (including boredom eating) can have such a detrimental effect on our bodies, but science isn’t the issue here. You don’t need a detailed medical explanation to overcome boredom eating, nor do you need a bunch of scientific facts to back up your decision. What you DO need to understand about overeating, whether in the form of boredom eating or just snacking on too much junk food, is that it’s actually easier to curb than most people believe. That isn’t to say it’s EASY, because if it was it wouldn’t be an issue to begin with, but removing that excess snacking from your diet won’t require extreme measures either.
All that being said, what’s the biggest reason boredom eating is so easy? Because you’re bored! Maybe not bored in the traditional sense, but you don’t have other thoughts occupying your mind, and so the indulgence of food begins to creep in there and fill up that space. Ever notice how when you’re busy and time is flying by, that you can easily go hours without eating a single bite and not even notice it? You’re so occupied with other thoughts and details that you don’t even have time to think about food.
Boredom eating is sort of the opposite of that. As human beings we have a natural tendency to take the path of least resistance, and so when we’re bored we generally look for instant gratification. Maybe it’s watching TV, playing video games, surfing the web, checking email, eating, and anything else that can satisfy us for the immediate time being. Very rarely is your mind in a place where it’s concerned about long term effects or decisions, rather it’s most immediate goal is to cure the boredom we’re facing.
Getting Over Boredom Eating
Once you understand that, you can view boredom eating in a completely different light. The issue then isn’t EATING, but rather finding some way to entertain yourself while you’re bored. Also, be sure not to confuse boredom eating with eating junk food. Lots of people get hungry and grab junk food to satisfy that hunger. When it comes to boredom eating however, you’re not even hungry; you’re just looking for something to do to cure your boredom.
How do you get over boredom eating then?
By replacing eating with something else. Boredom eating really isn’t a complex problem, and so it doesn’t require a complex solution, although implementing a SUCCESSFUL solution can be a different story.
I used to have a bad habit of constantly eating chocolate chips whenever I was bored. I kept a bowl in the kitchen, and since I constantly passed by them, anytime I didn’t have anything to do I’d walk on in and start eating some. It was a temporary fix to whatever problem I was facing, whether boredom or something else. They tasted good, they were sweet, and my body kept craving more; so of course I was going to eat them. It’s not until I realized that I needed to focus on occupying my time, not adjusting my diet, that I was able to overcome (for the most part) my boredom eating.
That isn’t to say I’m perfect by any means, but I try and make it a routine to only eat when I’m hungry, not when I have nothing better to do.
Also, if you MUST eat when you’re bored, dedicate a specific food towards that, and make it a habit to ONLY eat that food when you’re “boredom eating” and nothing else. For example, if you decide to use a bag of vegetables, then dedicate ALL boredom eating towards that bag of vegetables, and eating nothing else while you’re bored. This will at least wean you off the junk food, which is generally the easiest thing to go for when you’re bored.
Also make it a habit to occupy your time with something else before you reach for the food. Don’t be unrealistic about it either. Going for a run or working out in the lawn generally don’t provide much motivation when you’re feeling tired, lethargic, and bored, so setting goals such as those often go unfulfilled. Find something you enjoy and concentrate on it, and give yourself a time limit before you go for the food. Also throwing in a big glass of water goes a long way towards staving off boredom eating, assuming it’s done in the correct fashion.
For example, let’s say you’re bored and overall having nothing to fill your time. Give yourself ONE HOUR before you decide to eat something. So if it’s 2:00pm, tell yourself you’re going to kill an hour doing SOMETHING YOU ENJOY before you decide to eat. Once 3:00pm rolls around, if you’re still bored, drink a large glass of water and see how you feel. Large quantities of liquid can quickly fill you up, and they’ll certainly make you feel full. At that point, try and give yourself another hour before you eat, once again trying to find something you enjoy. By the time 4:00pm rolls around, the idea is that you’ll have found some way to occupy your time, and if you do decide to eat, it’s out of legitimate hunger.
Which means the biggest key for fighting off boredom eating however is finding activities you enjoy. Being productive is great; however chances are if you were “being productive” you wouldn’t be bored at the moment. Boredom isn’t always a bad thing though, and you should take it as a sign from your body that something needs to change. Often when we get so deep in a routine, we come out feeling tired or bored with ourselves, and that’s usually an indication that something needs adjusting. This is why I stress doing something you enjoy when you’re bored, not trying to turn it into a productivity hour. If you can do so great, but that’s not always the most effective way of overcoming things.
If there’s one thing you can learn from boredom eating however, it’s just how powerful an influence food can be on your body. There’s a reason that food sits so high on top of that list, and it should come as no surprise that what we put into our body is constantly affecting us.
Put in a bunch of junk food now, and expect to be feeling tired and lazy later.