When you’re bored, reaching for the snack cupboard seems like the most obvious and logical thing to do. However, boredom eating gives you little reward or long term happiness and instead can make you overeat and feel worse than you did before.
So, how do you stop boredom eating? Some quick tips to stop boredom eating are:
Drink water or tea
Brush your teeth
Improve your mentality
Learn how to be ‘okay’ with being bored
You don’t have to feel like you’re a slave to your boredom eating.
In fact, you can take back control in just 3-steps. We’ve put together a 3-step actionable plan on how to stop boredom eating by changing old habits and creating new pathways. We’ll also dive into the quick tips above to help even further.
The Difference Between Real Hunger and Psychological Hunger
Learning what is physical, real hunger can help you identify when you actually need to eat and when you are eating because you’re bored. It may sound silly but we often get confused with the two.
Knowing the difference can help you know when you have to implement those tips on how to stop boredom eating and when you should actually eat.
While these signs may differ from person to person, if you’re experiencing multiple side effects, then it’s best to eat. Your stomach growling is a sign that you’re actually hungry, as well as feeling like your tummy is empty or hollow.
Pain in that area is also common. Some people might experience headaches or shakiness.
These physical sensations will grow stronger the longer it’s been since you’ve last time you’ve eaten.
Another way of knowing if you’re actually hungry is by taking even only ten seconds out of your day to ask yourself if you are. If you think about a range of foods and are happy to eat any of them like your superfoods, then most likely you are experiencing true hunger.
However, if you’re craving something specific and only eating that specific food will treat the hunger pains you’re feeling, then you’re most likely wanting to eat for reasons other than true hunger.
Why Do We Eat When We’re Bored?
So, why do we eat when we’re bored?
Why is that something that most people experience?
Well, according to this study, people boredom eat as a way to break the monotony they find themselves in as opposed to eating because they’re actually experiencing real hunger.
In other words, it’s something for you to do when there’s nothing else keeping your mind stimulated or occupied.
In fact, this study promotes the idea that while it’s common for people to emotional eat, that is, eat when they’re feeling intense emotions such as anger or stress or sadness, boredom was the emotion that triggered eating the most and that it actually should be seen as a separate entity to the umbrella term, emotional eating.
Your 3-Step Plan To Stop Boredom Eating
Too much boredom eating can cause short term and long term problems such as an expanding waistline, a focus on less nutritious foods and dissatisfaction.
If you do find that boredom eating is a problem for you, we’ve put together a 3-step actionable plan that’ll assist in changing your habit of boredom eating into something more productive and rewarding.
1. IDENTIFY YOUR TRIGGERS
Knowing what triggers your boredom eating is the first step to preventing it from happening in the first place.
A lot of the time, we act on impulse without thinking and sometimes, they will mean heading to the fridge or grabbing some snacks, not because we really feel like it, but out of pure habit. So, identify what your triggers are that make you eat when you’re not feeling hungry.
Some common triggers include sitting down to watch TV or Netflix. Do you automatically grab a bag of chips to mindlessly munch on just because you’ve always done it?
When you get home from work, is the fridge the first place you go to so you can grab something to snack on?
Become aware of your eating habits and write down any triggers that you may have so then you can learn how to change them.
To keep track of your eating habits, keep a food diary. Write down what you eat, your cravings, what you were doing before/during your meal or snack.
By maintaining a food diary, you can learn more about how you eat, acknowledge the triggers that you have and come up with ways to manage them. It might even be a wake up call to how often you mindlessly snack.
2. FIND HAPPINESS ELSEWHERE
When creating an action plan, it’s important to know what while food is a really popular and most often, the chosen way to reward and nourish yourself, there are plenty of other methods you can implement instead that’ll still leave you feeling refreshed and satisfied.
Find other ways that help you re-centre and satisfy yourself so you can leave the boredom eating behind.
Some popular methods include going for a walk, doing stretches or a workout if time permits. (P.S. If you need ideas, Fitbod plans your entire workout for you based on your prior training experience, fitness goals, and personal preferences).
Give yourself some downtime to read a book, watch your favorite show or work on a fun project just for you.
Even lighting your favorite scented candle can be a mood booster.
Find your pleasure and happiness in other ways so you’re not always reaching for food to get those endorphins.
3. CREATE AN ACTION PLAN
The “if and then” system is a great one to implement once you know what your triggers are and where you’ve decided to find your happiness elsewhere.
By using this in your daily life, not only will you be able to identify your triggers but you’ll be able to rewire your habits so that you can create better ones that don’t involve eating out of pure boredom.
For example, if you want to change your habit of reaching for the snacks when you’ve hit that 3 pm afternoon slump to wake you up, your if/then plan can be: “if I’m feeling tired, I will then go for a quick walk outside”.
Have a backup plan in case the weather doesn’t permit it as well such as pre-planned stretches you can do at your desk.
Knowing exactly what you’re going to do and when you’ll do it will leave you without any other decisions to make in the moment (hence the backup plan of what to do if it’s raining) so that you can just jump straight into it.
As a habit is so ingrained into your brain, changing these pathways is going to take effort.
It’s easy to fall into your usual habits so be warned that conscious effort and thought will be needed to rewire these behaviors. Make it easier for yourself by having that backup plan as we mentioned or by changing your environment to remind you of these new habits you’re trying to focus on.
Have your sneakers by the door so that every time you want to take a walk or get some fresh air, it’s right there ready to go.
Put away the snacks in a closed cupboard that you always tend to gravitate to or stop buying them so they’re not in your line of sight and you’re not visually reminded of them.
Download some meditation apps or online workout videos onto your phone or laptop so that they’re ready to go when you need them.
It might take a wire to rewire your pathways but your future self will thank you for it.
5 Tips On How To Stop Boredom Eating
Having a plan is one thing and the first step to changing your habits to creating better, healthier ones but as we all know, sometimes, it’s easier said than done.
So here are some tips that can help you adhere to your 3-step plan to stop boredom eating until it’s something that you can do automatically.
1. USE A DISTRACTION
Sometimes, if you’re really experiencing that urge to eat even when you’re not hungry, a distraction is what you need.
Similarly to finding happiness elsewhere, find something that you can do that’ll take your mind away from eating and focused on something else. Plus, as shown by the experiment of boredom eating being done purely to break the monotony, this will get you out of your own monotonous funk so the urge will lessen.
Find yourself mindlessly tapping your fingers on the table? Try doing something with your hands like knitting or playing an instrument.
Shaking your legs? Get up, blast your favorite music and dance.
Walking back and forth to the fridge? Get outside and go for a walk or run, or get a workout in.
Before you know it, you’ll forget that you wanted to eat in the first place.
Another way you can do this is by creating a to-do list in advance. When you feel boredom hunger striking, start at the top of the list and tackle one item.
You’ll distract yourself from boredom eating and you’ll also get through a list of things you need to complete. What a win-win!
2. DRINK WATER OR TEA
Drinking water or tea is another way you can stop boredom eating.
Sometimes it’s the action of lifting something to our mouths itself that people crave so swap out foods for water or herbal tea instead.
Plus, by drinking more, you’ll be hydrated and less likely to also mistaken thirst for hunger.
Bear in mind though that if you are going to choose to drink water or tea instead of hunger, it should be only when you’re experiencing psychological or boredom hunger and not real hunger.
If you’re truly hungry, then put down the tea and eat.
3. BRUSH YOUR TEETH
If you find that you need help to stay away from the kitchen, then try brushing your teeth or gargling with mouthwash.
Brushing your teeth can send signals to your brain that it’s time to stop eating as it’s typically done at the end of the night when you’re ready to go to bed.
Also, toothpaste can make some foods taste bad so it might help curb those cravings, not to mention, you’ll have shinier, white and cleaner teeth.
4. IMPROVE YOUR MENTALITY
Your mentality is everything.
By reframing boredom to something more positive, you’ll feel less inclined to boredom eat while simultaneously transforming this habit to something more rewarding.
Improving your mentality can occur in different ways, and here’s a few that we recommend giving a go.
The first is practicing gratitude. Writing a list of things you’re grateful for can be a really lovely way to bring yourself back to the present moment. It will get you out of your current state of mind, in this case, being bored with nothing to do, and remind you of all the things you’re fortunate to have.
Give yourself 5-10 minutes to write a gratitude list. There are no rules and there’s nothing that’s too big or small to include. It will assist in reframing your boredom to things you’re thankful for, turning an unfavorable emotion into a positive one. Not to mention, it’ll be a great mood booster.
LISTEN TO MOTIVATIONAL/INSPIRATIONAL PODCASTS
There are so many great podcasts or audiobooks available that are of the motivational or inspirational nature. Keep them handy by downloading or saving them to your phone or laptop so you can pull one out when needed. Not only will you learn something and give your mind something else to focus on, but it could give you that push you need to really stick to your plan to stop boredom eating and give you those habits that you can even apply to other aspects of your life.
Mindfulness meditation is another way to better your thinking and stop boredom eating. When you boredom eat, you typically act on impulse. When you feel the urge to do so, choosing to meditate instead can force you to stop and think. It’ll encourage you to become more attuned to your body and mind and what you really need or want, breaking that automatic cycle of compulsively reaching for food.
5. LEARN HOW TO BE OKAY WITH BEING BORED
We live in such a fast-paced world where instant gratification is the norm that it’s easy to forget what it’s like to just stop and just be.
Sometimes, being bored is okay.
You don’t have to be doing something every minute of every day. Take the time to just do nothing every once in a while.
Embrace being disconnected and having the time to relax, embrace being able to do nothing but just enjoy the present.
Embrace being still.
Who knows, you might really come to value these moments.
With our 3-step actionable plan and 5 extra tips and tricks, you can stop automatically reaching for food when you’re bored. Instead, by rewiring this automatic behavior, you can create healthier habits that’ll leave you feeling better satisfied.
About The Author
As a health and fitness writer, Emily combines her two passions—powerlifting and writing. With a creative writing degree under her belt, she spends her mornings lifting weights, her nights putting pen to paper, and eating too many snacks in between.