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Weight Loss » Tips & Plans » How To Stop Eating When Bored: Tried and True Methods to End Mindless Snacking

How To Stop Eating When Bored: Tried and True Methods to End Mindless Snacking

how to stop eating when bored

How To Stop Eating When Bored

A dull university essay before you or maybe need to make that scary call to your manager? What about just laying in bed, scrolling through Instagram and feeling like you’re wasting your life? Every home’s hero, the refrigerator is always standing by, ready to help vaporize the voids of the day (and soul) with that scoop of pistachio ice cream, or slice of chocolate cake. Sound familiar? You know this as boredom eating. Millions of people struggle with putting on weight and developing diseases due to the endless snacking throughout the day. Why wouldn’t one ever snack on cauliflower, and how to stop eating when bored? Read this article to find out how this annoying type of eating becomes a habit and how to end eating when bored once and for all.

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Boredom eating, a dive in

Eating when you’re bored

Eating when you’re bored is a tangent of emotional eating. Emotional hunger swoops down on the unexpected – it is an urgent and overwhelming feeling that often kicks in a craving for some certain type of foods. When you are physically hungry you usually don’t crave a particular food, rather a wide range of products could satisfy you. While physical hunger can be satisfied in short order, emotional eating doesn’t trigger satisfaction. It usually takes up to 20 minutes for the nutrients to turn off the hunger signals related to physical hunger. On the other hand, you don’t feel emotional hunger in your stomach, instead it circulates in your brain to make you open that fridge automatically like a robot.

Eating when you’re anxious or stressed

Sometimes emotional eating refers to snacking when you’re anxious or stressed. Countless little stressful events throughout the day pile up and before you know it you have bought those two giant bags of chips. Eating your favorite treat temporarily blocks out the bundle of stresses, but in the end you may just end up feeling worse than before when you realize how many junk calories you’ve swallowed up. We should note that emotional eating also works as flawlessly whether you’re happy – or whether you’re bored.

What makes you crave that hamburger when you indeed want nothing more? The answer to the riddle resides in your hormones, more precisely – dopamine.

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A scientific point of view

Neuroscientists are still trying to understand what this clever little chemical does, but the most current insight is that it’s crucial to the experience of motivation and drive.

No matter if one is longing to hang with their BFF every single minute of the day, waste savings on the hits of substances, or strive to prove their supremacy in Minecraft – all is in search of a dopamine release. Whatever your latest obsession may be, you can be sure that it’s because your dopamine neurons are firing that you are forced to take concerted action to achieve what you’re seeking.

This explains quite well why you’re looking for food when you’re bored. When we’re in a malaise, so are our dopamine neurons. When we eat while bored, what is actually happening is the effort to try to wake up those neurons so we can feel lively once again. And when the brain’s more stimulating agent is lacking, that is the dopamine neurons as they are stimulating electrodes—food starts looking like an attractive doable workaround.

Conclusions and ways to solve the problem

All this makes emotional eating a coping tool – either with stress and anxiety, or with boredom. The sad part is that this method of tricking your dopamine neurons into flowing is not the most rewarding for your health.

So, how could you put an end to the habit of eating when bored? Nutritionists have developed a couple of cunningly key strategies for you (and for themselves, to tell the truth).

how to stop eating when bored or lonely
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Steps to stop eating when bored

Recognize you’re an emotional eater

Awareness is the first step on your road to getting rid of this harmful habit. Acknowledge that you are an emotional eater, and realize that you are using food as a coping tool. Plan strategies on what to substitute for food as your favored choice, because will power won’t always work. In fact, in both cases – when either stressed or bored, there are numerous options one could consider which can positively activate the dopamine neurons and yield welcomed benefits to one’s health simultaneously.

Practice mindful eating

Mindful eating is based on the Buddhist idea of mindfulness. Essentially, mindfulness is a form of meditation that helps you first recognize and then cope with your emotions and physical sensations. It can be helpful in alleviating and treating various medical conditions, including eating disorders, depression, anxiety and indeed, emotional eating (3, 4, 5, 6). You may use mindfulness to develop attentiveness to your experiences and the physical cues that occur when consuming food.

You have to follow these principles when eating mindfully:

  • Focus all your attention on your food and the experience of eating
  • Eat only to satisfy your physical hunger
  • Eat nutritionally healthy meals and snacks
  • Try to eat slowly and savor every bite
  • Listen to your body’s signals and eat only until you’re full.
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Practicing mindful eating encourages you to slow down, focus on the present moment, and notice what you’re truly feeling. When you repeatedly ask yourself, “How well do I feel after this snack?” you’ll recognize the process of gaining awareness of your own particular nutritional needs. You’ll be measuring meals and snacks in terms of how they influence your well-being. The purpose of eating will shift from the intention of simply feeling full, to the intention of feeling full of energy and vitality.

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Plan your meals

Skipping meals causes most people to feel overly hungry, resulting in overeating, or in this case, constant snacking. By eating in regular intervals you will be promoting a healthier eating cycle and minimizing additional snack consumption. If you never adopted the saying «Breakfast is the most important meal of the day», consider it more seriously.

how to stop the habit of eating when bored
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Stay hydrated

Sometimes, just the act of consuming something helps curb the feeling of boredom. In fact, countless people tend to confuse thirst for hunger. Symptoms of dehydration are similar to the signs of hunger and the same part of the brain interprets both hunger and thirst signals. This is why it is recommended to first try to drink a glass of water and then wait 15 minutes. In many cases, you won’t feel any more hunger cravings.

The cool point here is that water is much more healthy than donuts. Water delivers essential nutrients to all organs, supplies oxygen to your lungs, maintains heart function, releases recycled substances; ensuring the stability of the internal environment (1, 2). Besides this it helps to maintain a normal body temperature and helps one resist viruses and bacteria. So pour yourself an ice cold glass of water and hydrate instead of satiate. Drop a slice a lemon in there to make it even more beneficial!

Make sure you’re eating enough protein and healthy fats

While potato chips may satisfy you in the short term, you’re going to once again be hungry in an hour. By eating foods containing healthy protein and fat, you will be able to stay full longer and your attention will not be fixed on what your next snack will be. This means eating foods like nuts, yogurt, granola, avocados, or seafood. Proteins are repairing damaged tissue, strengthening your bones, relieving muscle soreness, and ensuring proper growth (7, 8). Healthy fats in turn lower the risk of heart disease, prevent abnormal heart rhythms. lower the triglycerides associated with heart disease, fight inflammation, lower blood pressure and lower bad LDL cholesterol levels while raising good HDL levels.

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Brush your teeth

How to stop eating when bored? This is a simple and brutal solution: foods are not tasty after tooth brushing. Rather than scarfing down those needless calories, try to distract yourself first by brushing and flossing your teeth. The minty sensation will dissuade you from putting anything else in your mouth.

Do something fun

Here’s another simple piece of advice. Rather than substituting food for fun, why not do something you actually enjoy? Watching Netflix and feeling a craving for chips? Turn the laptop off and go for a walk. Or what about some exercise? If you’re not into push-ups, try taking up some simple yoga which could flawlessly bring about a state of mindful eating.

For instance, the mental focus of Shakti yoga develops attentiveness to simple everyday experiences and how you internally deal with them. It develops the ability to relax deeply and take on the stresses of life with confidence, strength and flexibility, capacities which are irreplaceable for the hustle of modern life. Shakti energy empowers one to take in all of life’s positive energies while releasing all of life’s negative energies.

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Conclusion

To sum up, there are many possible answers to the «How to stop eating when bored» question. It is a widespread issue that many people deal with, but that doesn’t mean it’s unsolvable. All it takes is just a bit of control and dedication.

If you want your weight loss plan to be efficient, don’t forget to do some exercise on the regular basis. Check out this 20-min Full Body Workout at Home.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Dehydration (1997, medlineplus.gov)
  2. Drinking water and Health (1977, nap.edu)
  3. Evidence and Potential Mechanisms for Mindfulness Practices and Energy Psychology for Obesity and Binge-Eating Disorder (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  4. Mind-Body Practice and Body Weight Status in a Large Population-Based Sample of Adults (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  5. Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and Health Benefits. A Meta-Analysis (2004, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  6. Mindfulness Moderates the Relationship Between Disordered Eating Cognitions and Disordered Eating Behaviors in a Non-Clinical College Sample (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  7. Optimizing Protein Intake in Adults: Interpretation and Application of the Recommended Dietary Allowance Compared with the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  8. Protein (n.d., hsph.harvard.edu)
Kristen Fleming

Kristen Fleming

I am a U.S. educated and trained Registered Dietitian (MS, RD, CNSC) with clinical and international development experience. I have experience conducting systematic reviews and evaluating the scientific literature both as a graduate student and later to inform my own evidence-based practice as an RD. I am currently based in Lusaka, Zambia after my Peace Corps service was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for some meaningful work to do as I figure out next steps. This would be my first freelance project, but I am a diligent worker and quite used to independent and self-motivated work.

Kristen Fleming, MS, RD, CNSC

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