We’ve all done it, started munching on food just because were bored. It’s harmless…. unless you’re doing it all the time. Then you may start gaining some unwanted weight. Another term used is ‘mindless eating’, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. You eat food mindlessly even though you aren’t hungry.
What Causes Boredom Eating?
So, what causes boredom eating? When our brain is stimulated it releases a hormone called Dopamine. Dopamine makes you feel alert, happy, motivated, and focused. Basically, the opposite way you feel when bored. This is because due to you brain not being stimulated when you’re bored, your Dopamine levels drop. There are a lot of things that cause the release of Dopamine. Exercise, meditating, listening to music, and enjoying food. That’s why when you’re bored you eat. To stimulate your brain.
How To Combat Boredom Eating
locking snacks away from easy access is one way people try to combat mindless, boredom eating. Personally, I used to advise this, but now I’m not so sure it’s a long-term solution. You’re never going to have complete control over whether there’s food at hand all the time. Would it not be better to learn how to tune into your body more and train it to only look for food when it’s hungry? Would it not be better to work on listening to your hunger and fullness cues? Now, these aren’t things that will happen overnight. You will have to work on them, but once you have that heathy relationship with food where you can enjoy it, but stop when you are full and feel satisfied, things will be so much easier!
Now for a few tips on how to combat boredom eating WITHOUT restricting yourself from food!
- First off make sure you’re eating enough. Sometimes it may not be simple boredom, you might just be physically hungry. I wouldn’t focus too much on calories if you can avoid it. It can be difficult sometimes to judge whether it’s physical hunger you feel, or emotional hunger. Here are a few things you can ask yourself to help figure it out.
|Physical Hunger||Emotional Hunger|
|Comes on gradually and is related to the last time you ate, or how active you’ve been.You’ll feel physical signals like rumbling tummy, feeling lightheaded, unable to focus.You aren’t craving any one food, any food you like will do!||Comes on suddenly and is tied to things like stress, worry or tiredness.No physical signalsYou are craving a very specific food or type of food (e.g. you’ve had a tough day and all you want is a tub of ice-cream and a spoon)|
- Practice mindful eating. This means tuning into your body more and asking yourself questions like “am I hungry or just bored?” or “I’, always starving come lunch time so maybe I need a snack between breakfast and lunch”. Answering these questions and giving your body what it needs when it needs it will help prevent you mindlessly eating if you’re ever bored.
- Don’t restrict your favourite foods! It’s like that saying, “When you can’t have something you only want it more”. There is actual science being this, showing that when people who really like chocolate where forbidden to eat it, it only made them want it more (1). So if there’s a food you crave a lot then don’t cut it out completely, just eat them regularly, but in moderation. Making any food a ‘treat’ or ‘forbidden food’ is not a good thing to do, especially for young children. Food is food. Certain foods just need to be consumed in smaller quantities than others.
- Try to plan you days. I’m a big planner, some people prefer to just go with the flow, and that’s fine, but even just having a few tasks you aim to complete in the day can be a big help.
- Exercise! Why not improve your fitness when you feel bored? Stick on a follow along workout from YouTube (check out my easy beginners workout videos here!), go for a walk, do some gardening, go for a swim. Whatever exercise you enjoy!
- Finally, make sure what you are eating during meals and snacks are nutritionally satisfying. Remember the huger crushing trio -Fibre, Fat and Protein. Having these nutrients in your meals will keep you fuller for longer. You don’t necessarily have to have all three in every meal. For example, if you have a salad by simply adding some chicken or tofu and a slice or 2 of wheaten scone bread you’ve got a well-balanced meal. Carbs and fibre from the bread, Protein from the chicken or tofu and if you add a nice drizzle of olive oil as a dressing you’ve got healthy fats. Read my Blog on How To Plan A Nutritionally Balanced Diet for more tips.
All in all, boredom eating is so common, so you’re not alone. It’s something that you can work on too. Even just being aware that you do boredom eat means you can try out these tips and hopefully start eating more mindfully!
1. Richard A, Meule A, Friese M, Blechert J. Effects of Chocolate Deprivation on Implicit and Explicit Evaluation of Chocolate in High and Low Trait Chocolate Cravers. Front Psychol. 2017;8:1591.