You’re bored, and you keep going to the kitchen? People often struggle with boredom eating. This blog discusses boredom eating and offers tips on how to stop when you are bored.
It is a widespread eating habit that almost everyone has engaged in at one point or another. In middle and high school, I ate a lot of food to pass the time when I came home from school.
Since moving from the office to working from home and having more snacks available, and less stimulation and interaction with other people, I have noticed that more clients are struggling with the problem of boredom eating.
It’s important to remind people that boredom eating is not only an expected behavior but also a healthy one. It’s not helpful to try to reduce boredom-eating when so much shame surrounds it.
It can be a problem if you use it as your only way to deal with boredom or if you find it makes you feel bad by preventing you from eating well.
What causes boredom in eating?
Emotional eating, or boredom eating, is another term for emotional eating. You might eat to relieve stress, anxiety or to boost your mood when feeling low, but you may also eat to stimulate yourself when bored.
When I speak to clients about emotional eating, I often refer to The widow of tolerance. This concept was developed by Dan Siegel—a psychiatrist who has published and conducted extensive research on mindfulness, parenting, trauma, and parenting. The window of tolerance is a zone of activation of the nervous system in which a person can function best in daily life.
Certain situations can activate your “fight or flee” response, a hyperarousal of the nervous system. Hyperarousal of the nervous system can cause panic, anxiety, or fear. Hypoarousal can also be caused by other situations associated with depression and fatigue. Hyperarousal can lead to the nervous system “burnout.” Think of the crash you might feel after a panic episode.
It’s important to remember that activating your nervous system is a process on a spectrum. Boredom can be associated with hyperarousal or being at the lower end of your window of tolerance. It makes sense to seek something that will activate your nervous system and help you get back in the window or stop it from falling further. Food and boredom-eating can help.
All of this is to make you aware of the importance of boredom in our eating habits and the unique creativity humans display when trying to regulate the nervous system. I hope it will help you feel more compassion when you have struggled to eat out of boredom.
How to stop eating when you’re bored Eat enough food throughout the day.
Hunger can sometimes be mistaken for boredom. It’s common to confuse snacking and grazing due to need with boredom eating because longing can manifest as fatigue or difficulty concentrating. To stop boring eating, ensure you eat enough food throughout the day.
This amount can vary from person to person and day to day. In general, it is about eating every 3-4 hours. It could be a meal that contains fat, carbs, and protein or a small snack that includes a variety of food groups. This blog post on how to plan an enjoyable meal may be helpful.
When you are hungry, choose something that will satisfy you.
Try to eat something satisfying if you feel hungry or it has been a while since you ate. I often see my clients grab a handful of something or a small treat that does not satisfy them. A small snack may be helpful when you are bored, but it is unlikely to benefit. What people mistakenly call boredom eating can actually be grazing, which occurs when people don’t select something satisfying enough to address their hunger.
Create a toolbox to help you overcome boredom.
I have talked about creating a Toolbox for Emotional Eating. This tool can help with emotional eating as boredom is also a form of it. A toolbox is a list of self-care techniques, activities, and tools that you can use to cope with an unpleasant emotion. The toolbox is a great way to remind yourself that you have many tools, some better suited for specific tasks.
As a tool, eating can be included in our toolbox. But, just like you wouldn’t expect your wrench to fix every problem in your home, we should also have other tools. Here are some ideas.
- List a few games you enjoy, such as Wordle, video games, crosswords, or something similar.
- Take a stroll outside, or take your dog for a walk if you own one. In the spring/summer, I know which flowers are growing and which are dying. I sometimes get nerdy and use my plant identification app to learn the names of plants and plan our garden.
- Rewatch old episodes of your favorite TV shows. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, is currently on my list. It holds up exceptionally well.
- Call a friend who you haven’t spoken to for a while. You may have friends that you are close to and wish you could talk to more often. Give them a call when you’re bored!
- Make a list of the household chores you have been meaning to complete. You can use boredom to complete an undertaking that may not be important but will make you feel better. (Hello, dusting light fixtures!) ).
Mindfulness and mindful eating are two ways to practice mindfulness.
You’ve probably eaten out of boredom before but only noticed it afterward. It’s difficult (impossible?) to change a behavior you don’t realize you’re doing. You can stop eating when bored by practicing mindfulness and mindful eating.