How to Stop Eating When You’re Bored — Registered Dietitian Columbia SC
Make sure you’re eating enough during the day.
Sometimes boredom eating isn’t actually boredom eating – sometimes it’s real, physical hunger. Because hunger can present as fatigue or difficulty concentrating, it’s not uncommon to mistake snacking or grazing out of hunger for boredom eating. If you’re trying to stop boredom eating, first make sure you are eating enough throughout the day. While that amount varies from person to person, from day to day, in general that means eating something every 3-4ish hours, either a meal with fat, protein and carbs, or a snack with a couple different food groups. Here’s a blog post I wrote on how to plan a satisfying meal that may be helpful.
If you’re hungry, eat something that satisfies.
If you recognize that you’re actually feeling hungry, or if it’s just been a few hours since you last ate, try to eat something that’s actually satisfying. Often I see clients grab a handful or something, or a small snack that doesn’t really satisfy. While a small snack might be helpful when you’re feeling bored, it’s unlikely to satisfy. Sometimes what people identify as boredom eating is actually the grazing that occurs when they don’t choose something that’s satisfying enough to actually address the level of hunger they’re experiencing.
Identify vulnerable times for boredom eating.
Look back and identify times you are more likely to boredom eat. Here’s some common ones I hear from clients:
When you know times during the day that you’re more vulnerable to boredom eating, it’s easier to plan something in advance to provide alternative tools. Which brings us to my next tip…
Create a toolbox for boredom eating.
I’ve talked before about creating a toolbox for emotional eating. Since boredom eating is a type of emotional eating, this tool is helpful here too! Essentially, a toolbox is a list of other self care techniques, activities and tools you can utilize to cope with an uncomfortable emotion. I use the toolbox analogy as a reminder that there are lots of tools you can use, and some may work better for different tasks than others. Eating can be one tool in the toolbox, but just as you wouldn’t expect a wrench to fix everything that can go wrong in your house, we need to fill up our toolbox with other tools. Here’s some ideas:
Have a list of a few games you can play, like Wordle, a video game, crossword puzzles, or sometime similar.
Go outside for a walk, or walk your dog if you have one. In the spring/summer, I like to try to pay attention to what new flowers are starting to pop up, and which ones are fading away. Sometimes I’ll get really nerdy and whip out my plant ID app so I can learn the names and plan out our garden 🙂
Rewatch episodes from an old favorite TV show. Currently I’m on to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which may I say, holds up incredibly well.
Call a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile. If you’re like me, there’s friends you’re close with and wished you talked to on the phone more often. Use boredom as a sign to give them a call!
Have a list of household tasks you’ve been meaning to do. Use that boredom as a time to cross off a task that perhaps isn’t important, but it’ll feel good to cross off your list (hello dusting the light fixtures!).
Practice mindfulness and mindful eating.
How many times have you boredom ate, but only realized it after the fact? It’s hard (impossible?) to change a behavior you don’t realize you’re doing. Practicing mindfulness and mindful eating skills can help you identify when you’re engaging in boredom eating so you can actually have a chance to stop eating when you’re bored. Here’s a link to a 101 blog post I wrote on mindful eating and a post on how to start a mindfulness meditation practice that may be helpful.
Give yourself grace when you eventually do boredom eat.
Remember, boredom eating is normal human eating behavior. When it is harming versus helping, it may be a behavior you decide to address. But as a human being, you will almost certainly turn to food as a way of coping with boredom again. The key is greeting it with grace, and getting curious rather than judgmental about it.
If you’re struggling with boredom eating, or any other kind of emotional eating, and need more guidance, we provide virtual intuitive eating coaching throughout the US. Read more about our services and philosophy here, and reach out if you’d like to work together!