Eating out of boredom is a common form of emotional eating. It happens to all of us. We’re watching TV with a bag of chips next to us, and the next thing we know the bag is empty. Here are 3 guideposts to cultivate more awareness around eating and diminish boredom eating.
Honor Your Hunger
First, check-in with your hunger and fullness cues using the Hunger & Fullness Discovery Scale. If you are physically hungry, eat! Make a meal or snack that satisfies your level of hunger.
Sometimes my clients think that they are snacking out of boredom in the afternoon, but after checking in with the hunger & fullness scale, they identify that they’re truly hungry.
Maybe you skipped a meal earlier in the day and feel hungrier than normal in the afternoon. Perhaps your meal wasn’t satisfying so you feel hungry for more. Ensure that most of your meals and snacks have a combination of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fat to satisfy your hunger level.
Check Your Emotions
If you aren’t eating because of physical hunger, you could be eating for emotional reasons. Eating out of boredom is a type of emotional eating. Other emotional triggers for eating include anxiety, celebration, frustration, self-soothing, and reward.
Eating for emotional reasons is human. It’s likely that most people eat emotionally from time to time. But if eating is the ONLY coping mechanism you turn to when bored, it can become more of a harmful behavior than a helping one.
Next time you notice yourself eating for emotional reasons ask:
- How am I feeling? Name the emotion.
- What is it that I really need at this moment?
- What are 3 additional non-food-related ways I can cope with this emotion?
For example, if you recognize that you feel bored and what you really need is mental stimulation, you could 1) go for a brisk walk listening to your favorite podcast 2) turn on some music 3) do a craft or hobby that keeps your hands busy.
Often boredom eating is associated with distracted eating. We’re also eating with the TV on or while scrolling through social media.
Eating while distracted diminishes the rewarding qualities of eating a particular food, which means it might take more food to feel satisfied.
Here are 3 mindful eating tips to try next time you’re eating out of boredom:
1. Examine your eating environment.
Are you eating while standing? Are you engaged in other activities while eating? If you’re eating at home, are you sitting at the table or eating at your desk? To create a pleasant eating environment, set the intention to reduce as many distractions as possible. Sit at a clutter-free table. Turn on soothing music. Creating a pleasant eating environment will turn up the volume of satisfaction.
2. Take 3 deep breaths before eating.
Breathing is another tool for connecting with the present moment. It overrides distractions and grounds us in the here and now. Slow deep breathing can also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest state), which primes your digestive system.
3. Engage your senses.
Plate your food and notice how appealing it looks (sight). Place your food under your nose and acknowledge any pleasant aromas (smell). Notice its texture and mouthfeel as you pick up the food and eat it (touch). Pay attention to the full spectrum of flavors in each bite (taste). How does it sound as you take a bite? Crunchy? Crackly? Slurpy? (smell).
Using a combination of these tips, you may start to experience greater satisfaction with food. Overall, you’ll feel more connected to your body and its needs versus eating on autopilot.
What do you think?
Comment below if you found this article helpful! Continue to pay attention to your hunger cues, check your emotions, and practice mindful eating. For me, the most helpful reminder is that eating out of boredom is normal from time to time and not beat myself up for it.