How to stop eating when bored

How To Stop Eating When Bored

Boredom eating is a common occurrence in many households and I’m sure many of us have been guilty of doing it while we’ve been in lockdown. The problem is, boredom eating doesn’t really provide much of a reward and it rarely cures the actual problem of being bored. Find out how to stop eating when bored to help you nip your boredom eating habits in the bud for good.

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Recognising The Difference Between Genuine Hunger And Boredom

Before you work on how to stop eating when bored it’s important to recognise the difference between genuine hunger and boredom eating.

Let me set the scene:

Have you ever wandered into the kitchen to open the fridge and cupboard doors repeatedly only to not be interested in eating anything that’s there? Or if you do eat something, it’s not really because you need it, more that it’s right in front of your face and it gives you something to do for a couple of minutes?

You’re not hungry, you’re bored!

The simple fact is many of us confuse wanting to eat with needing to eat. And I’m not trying to shame anyone, I’m guilty of this too. Sometimes my mouth just gets lonely.

It’s easy to fall into this habit though, we use food to entertain ourselves, distract ourselves when we’re feeling listless, comfort us when we’re feeling emotional and to calm us when we’re anxious or upset.

However, there are a few things you can do to break this cycle of boredom eating. As I mentioned it’s important to recognise the difference between genuine hunger and eating because you’re bored.

Firstly, as simple as it sounds, you should ask yourself if you actually feel hungry or not. Focus on why you want to eat so that you can fuel your body with care, rather than trying to fill a void of restlessness.

It can be difficult to define hunger because it involves a complex mix of hormones, biochemical processes and physical reactions.

Typically when you’re hungry you’ll notice your stomach grumbling, you may feel a little pain, have low energy and might even suffer from slight dizzy spells. Hunger is a gradual build-up rather than an instantaneous feeling. Not only that but when you’re hungry, you’re more likely to stop eating when you feel full.

In short, hunger is your body’s way of telling you it needs to eat to survive.

Boredom eating on the other hand is more psychological.

You’re more likely to experience food cravings that arrive quickly in emotional moments. Boredom eating can act as a way to redirect your feelings of dissatisfaction with what you’re doing in the present moment towards something you enjoy doing. However, if a food craving doesn’t come from genuine hunger then what you eat won’t satisfy you for very long.

Why Do You Eat Out Of Boredom?

I lightly touched on this above but there are a number of reasons that you might eat out of boredom.

Food can be used to break the monotony of what you’re doing in the present moment. If you don’t feel fulfilled by what you’re doing you’ll often reach for something comforting, like a chocolate bar or packet of crisps to make you feel better.

Whilst this might cause a distraction momentarily, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel any better after you’ve eaten if you’re not actually hungry and it’s actually harder to stop eating because it’s giving you something to do.

How To Stop Eating When Bored

Now you know how to recognise when you’re hungry and why you eat when you’re bored. Now we’ll look at how to stop eating when bored. There are a number of things you can do to stop boredom eating but it requires a little self-reflection.

What Are Your Triggers?

In order to stop eating when you’re bored you need to figure out what triggers your boredom eating.

Boredom comes in many forms and you may be doing something that you’d normally enjoy but on this occasion you’re just not feeling it. Indeed you might not actually be doing anything or don’t know what you want to do so you decide to comfort yourself with food.

Regardless, you need to actually think about what triggers this urge to eat when you’re not hungry. Pay attention to your habits and thought process. Once you have an idea of what causes these feelings, then you will be able to adjust your patterns.

Find A Healthier Way To Occupy Your Mind

Instead of walking into the kitchen to open every cupboard door looking for something to eat when you’re bored, find something else to do that will distract you and give you a purpose for that moment in time.

I’ll go into more detail on things you can do later but for the time being, consider a hobby, do a crossword, change the channel on the TV or do some exercise to preoccupy your mind and break the spell of boredom.

Essentially, what you’re trying to do here is find a healthier alternative to eating when you’re not hungry.

Create An Action Plan

Create an action plan to change your habits and break your reliance on food to emotionally satisfy you. I find the If/Then approach to be very useful in this situation.

Create a plan around the idea that if you get bored, then you will do something other than eating to break the cycle.

Some examples could be:

  • If I get bored, then I will go for a 20 minute walk / do 15 minutes of Yoga / read a book
  • If I feel stressed, then I will meditate for 10 minutes
  • If I feel anxious, then I will focus on my breathing for 5 minutes

Think about things that you enjoy doing and relieve the strength of the emotion that you’re feeling at that time. Have a list of options on hand that you can instantly pick and choose from to provide an immediate distraction from the kitchen.

Make It Harder To Binge

If you often find yourself wandering into the snack cupboard when you’re bored then make it harder for yourself to binge on junk food.

Remove the unhealthy options from your kitchen by donating to food banks, listing them on free food sharing apps such as Olio, or giving them to other friends or family members. The important thing is to get any such items out of your kitchen. If you do want snacks on hand, keep a range of fruit or healthier options such as these delicious trail mix bars and peanut butter bars on hand.

This way, you’ll be less likely to go in search of something to eat to occupy your time. And if you do happen to reach for food, it will be low-calorie healthy alternatives to crisps and chocolate.

Are You Eating Enough Protein And Healthy Fats At Meal Time?

If you want to stop boredom eating then make sure you’re eating enough protein and healthy fats in your meals.

Protein, Fats and Carbohydrates are the essential macronutrients that fuel your body. Protein and fats help to keep you feeling fuller for longer by regulating your hunger hormones.

There are a variety of ways you can increase your intake of protein and healthy fats such as including chicken, eggs, nuts, seeds and cheese in your meals. You should also fill out your meals with low-calorie high volume foods like salads and green vegetables to make sure you’re full after eating your meal. This will help you to stop eating when bored.

Are You Thirsty?

Sometimes when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually thirsty. Therefore to stop eating when bored, try drinking a glass of water or flavoured tea instead.

I carry this water bottle with me everywhere I go to help be stay well hydrated and save me from snacking when I’m not actually hungry.

Water is also a good appetite suppressant. Drinking a glass of water before you eat can make you feel fuller.  When you feel full, the stomach sends signals to the brain to stop eating, meaning you are likely to consume less food overall. 

Plan Your Meals

A good idea to curb boredom eating is to plan your meals out for the week. I’ve talked about the benefits of meal prepping before and I cannot stress enough how helpful this can be to monitor your calorie intake and to make sure you’re eating well-balanced meals.

Meal planning doesn’t have to be an arduous task. I find it particularly helpful to have this magnetic planner attached to your fridge to help you stay on track. If you find yourself aimlessly wandering to the fridge at the first sign of boredom it can remind you of your scheduled meals for the day and act as an deterrent to stop eating when bored.

Make sure to plan meals that are high in volume to keep you full between meals and snacks.

Keep A Food Diary

You might not realise how much food you’re eating when you eat out of boredom. A sandwich here, some toast, chocolate or a packet of crisps there all adds up.

One of my best tips on how to stop eating when bored is to keep a food diary. Be honest with yourself, log everything you eat and when so that you can see what you’re actually consuming and recognise any patterns with your boredom eating.

Doing this can help you analyse your behaviour and identify your potential triggers.

If there are some foods that you just can’t live without then try to fit these into your meal plan so that you can enjoy them occasionally.

What To Do Instead Of Eating When You’re Bored?

I’ve given you quite a few tips on how to stop eating when bored, one being to find a healthier distraction to stop eating when bored.

Once you know what triggers your boredom eating and you feel the urge to meander to the kitchen try one of these options to stop eating when bored.

Take Up A Hobby

Boredom eating is a result of not feeling satisfied in the present moment. Taking up a hobby can be a great way to occupy your mind and your hands to stop eating when bored.

Something as simple as doing a jigsaw, playing a game or even gardening can act as a distraction from the kitchen.

Find a hobby that excites you to do instead of eating when you’re not hungry.

Exercise

When you know you’re not hungry and you’re tempted to reach for something in the snack cupboard try doing some exercise instead.

Load up your favourite workout on Youtube, unravel your fitness mat and get cracking. You’ll never regret a workout and you will feel a million times better after moving your body than you ever would by trying to comfort your feelings of boredom with food.

Go For A Walk

Along the same vein as exercise, going for a walk can act as a great distraction from boredom eating and it has the added benefit of getting some fresh air in your lungs.

Enjoy A Cup Of Tea

Instead of eating when you’re bored, try drinking a nice hot cup of tea. Tea can act as an appetite suppressant and the added caffeine can provide a slight boost to your metabolism.

Whether you favour regular tea or flavoured tea, try drinking a cup when you feel the urge to snack to curb your cravings especially when you’re not actually hungry.

Meditate

When you’re feeling unsatisfied with what you’re currently doing, or you don’t know what to be at try meditating instead of eating out of boredom.

Meditating can be a great way to increase your self awareness, reduce negative emotions, manage your stress levels and to focus on the present moment. It can help to relax you, distract you and stop you from eating when you’re bored.

When you feel the urge to snack even though you’re not hungry, press play on your favourite meditation app sink into full relaxation mode. I guarantee you will feel much better afterwards and you’ll realise that you really didn’t want to eat at all.

Have you found yourself eating when you’re bored? Have these tips on how to stop eating when bored helped you to reduce your boredom eating? Let me know in the comments.

how to stop eating when bored
how to stop eating when bored

How to recognise the difference between hunger and boredom

It can be difficult to define hunger because it involves a complex mix of hormones, biochemical processes and physical reactions.
Typically when you’re hungry you’ll notice your stomach grumbling, you may feel a little pain, have low energy and might even suffer from slight dizzy spells. Hunger is a gradual build-up rather than an instantaneous feeling. Not only that but when you’re hungry, you’re more likely to stop eating when you feel full.
In short, hunger is your body’s way of telling you it needs to eat to survive.
Boredom eating on the other hand is more psychological.
You’re more likely to experience food cravings that arrive quickly in emotional moments. Boredom eating can act as a way to redirect your feelings of dissatisfaction with what you’re doing in the present moment towards something you enjoy doing. However, if a food craving doesn’t come from genuine hunger then what you eat won’t satisfy you for very long.

Why Do You Eat Out Of Boredom?

Food can be used to break the monotony of what you’re doing in the present moment. If you don’t feel fulfilled by what you’re doing you’ll often reach for something comforting, like a chocolate bar or packet of crisps to make you feel better.
Whilst this might cause a distraction momentarily, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel any better after you’ve eaten if you’re not actually hungry and it’s actually harder to stop eating because it’s giving you something to do.

How To Stop Eating When Bored

Figure out your boredom triggers.
Find a healthier way to occupy your mind
Create an action plan: If I feel bored then I will do X to avoid snacking when I’m not hungry
Remove go to food options from the kitchen to curb boredom eating
Eat enough protein and healthy fats in your meals to keep you feeling fuller for longer
Drink a glass of water
Plan your meals and stick to your meal plan. Make sure to include filling snacks to keep you from boredom eating
Keep a food diary to detail everything you consume and when.

What To Do Instead Of Eating When You’re Bored?

Take up a hobby to occupy your mind and your hands to stop eating when bored.
Exercise – You’ll never regret a workout and you will feel a million times better after moving your body than you ever would by trying to comfort your feelings of boredom with food.
Going for a walk can act as a great distraction from boredom eating and it has the added benefit of getting some fresh air in your lungs.
Do some gardening – It will also get some fresh air in your lungs and keep your hands occupied while quietening your brain.
Try drinking a cup when you feel the urge to snack to curb your cravings especially when you’re not actually hungry.
Meditating can be a great way to increase your self awareness, reduce negative emotions, manage your stress levels and to focus on the present moment. It can help to relax you, distract you and stop you from eating when you’re bored.

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