As a dietitian, I have lately always been asked the questions “How do I stop eating when bored?” and “I always eat even when I am not hungry, what should I do?” Well, I am here to assure you that this is completely normal!
It’s safe to say that we’ve all been through a lot this year. The pandemic has forced a lot of us to give up our regular social activities and stay at home.
Daily habits that we used to take for granted like grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend or dining with the family suddenly became out of the question. So now you might find yourself stuck at home with nothing to preoccupy or entertain you, which causes us as human beings to turn to what we call “boredom eating”.
But don’t get discouraged! In this article, I will try to help you overcome boredom eating by providing you with tips and alternatives for a better and healthier lifestyle.
However, before I advise you on how to stop eating when bored, I want to help you understand what emotional eating is all about.
What Is Emotional Eating?
Emotional Eating is when you eat to feed your feelings and not your hunger. Many of us turn to food when we have positive or negative feelings.
For example, how many of us tend to visit a coffee shop or a fast-food restaurant after a hard day at school or at work? Or how many times have you bought ice cream after a bad breakup (cliché, right)? Can you count the number of times you bought a cake or donuts to celebrate some good news?
Well, were you hungry? Not necessarily. Enjoying food is completely normal, but trying to solve your problems with eating can make you enter an overeating-guilt cycle that will never end.
If you are dealing with emotional issues, it’s much better to talk to a friend or consult with a professional psychologist who can help you solve your problem without hurting your physical and mental health. Now that we’ve addressed some of the root causes, let’s talk about how to solve these forms of overeating.
How Can You Avoid Boredom Eating?
Write a Food Diary:
One of the ways that can help you stop boredom eating is to write a food diary that includes, in detail, what you are eating throughout the day.
A good way to write it is to mention the types of food you’re having, the amounts, and the timing. The more you write, the more you will be aware of the unhealthy snacks you’re having. This will help you think twice before eating: am I hungry, or am i just pleasing my feelings? If the answer is the latter, then you should probably find another way to stay busy.
Keep Yourself Busy:
When you feel like eating out of boredom, try to keep yourself busy with other things. Consider practicing any hobby you like, such as drawing, singing, dancing, finishing some house cleaning, or even calling a friend.
But be careful: activities like watching TV, using your laptop, or even playing video games can cause the urge to snack or eat more. So choose your activities wisely and go for something that involves more physical effort on your end.
Move Your Body:
Physical activity is always a good option! Exercising will help you lose some extra weight as well as improve your overall physical and mental health. It has also proven to boost your energy and help prevent many undesirable health conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and many others.
Moreover, physical exercise will help your body release serotonin, a hormone and neurotransmitter responsible for boosting your mood.
You don’t have to force yourself to go to the gym. There are many other activities to get your body moving, such as hiking, going on a walk in nature, dancing, playing tennis, swimming, and so on.
Keep Yourself Hydrated:
Water is a very essential component of your diet and should never be neglected. It helps you carry nutrients and oxygen to your cells, adjust your body temperature, control your blood pressure, and remove bacteria from your body. Moreover, carrying a water bottle with you can help you avoid snacking on food and prevent you from having high-calorie drinks, such as soda, juices, etc.
On another note, hot chocolate, caffeinated beverages, and juices are not to be considered a replacement for water!
Practice Mindful Eating:
Mindful eating is when you eat while being fully attentive to your food; in other words, it is when you “observe how the food makes you feel and the signals your body sends you about taste, satisfaction, and fullness”.
I know it is hard to practice mindful eating nowadays because we usually eat in a hurry behind our desks or while watching TV at home, but where there is a will, there is a way!
The benefits of mindful eating are numerous: it can help you decrease your caloric intake because when eating slowly, your digestion process will improve and help you feel full sooner. Moreover, you will notice that many of the meals you’re having are comfort food, used to satisfy your feelings and not your hunger.
Basically, mindful eating will help improve your relationship with food and eventually help you make smarter decisions when it comes to choosing healthier meals for your body.
Plan Your Meals Wisely:
Planning your meals ahead of time can really help you stop eating when bored. Why? Because an organized and well-planned diet is key.
Start by preparing a list every Monday for the whole week. Include, in detail, all the meals you’ll be eating daily as well as the snacks.
In addition to that, you should also mention the exact quantity of a certain meal as well as its timing. Then make a grocery shopping list so you can have all the ingredients ready at home!
Scheduling your meals will not only help control your food choices but will also control your appetite, since you’re committing to a strict schedule. It is important to mention that you should be careful while planning your schedule and focus on setting realistic and achievable goals.
In case you need any extra help, please consult with a professional dietitian who can help you balance your meals and provide you with helpful daily tips!
Healthy Snacks Ideas:
Here are some healthy snack ideas that you can prepare easily at home and carry with you wherever you go:
- A Mix of Nuts: Despite their high caloric content, nuts are full of nutrients and antioxidants. Make sure you carry some with you as a snack!
- Toast With Peanut Butter: A piece of toast with a teaspoon of peanut butter is very satisfying, quick, and easy to prepare.
- Fresh Fruits: You can pick any type of fruit you like (apple, banana, orange, strawberries…) and enjoy! However, always be careful about the quantities, since healthy does not mean calorie-free!
- Boiled Eggs: What is better than having a piece of toast with a boiled egg on top? Don’t forget to add a pinch of salt and pepper and enjoy!
- Edamame: Edamame is a great snack that is highly rich in antioxidants, and it can easily be carried with you wherever you go!
If you keep wondering how to stop eating when bored, I want you to know that you’re not alone! Boredom eating is very common, especially nowadays with the restrictions of the pandemic. There are many ways to overcome boredom eating: keep yourself busy, drink enough water, practice mindful eating, and more. So don’t be discouraged; instead, educate yourself on the nutritional facts of your everyday meals and create a well-balanced diet that will help you stay healthy and fit in a sustained way.