Mastering how to stop eating out of boredom will make a dramatic difference to your health. When some people are utterly bored, snacking on junk becomes a mindless way to pass the time. People often make a bee-line for the pantry, snack drawer, or fridge because it’s easy and convenient. Even when you’re not hungry, eating serves as a coping mechanism to fill a void when nothing else stimulates your mind. Studies say that individuals reach for snacks to break up the monotony of boredom because junk food increases dopamine levels.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, playing a huge part in several bodily functions, including cognition, behaviour, motivation, and memory. Dopamine is often referred to as the “feel-good hormone” as it plays a huge role in the brain’s reward system. Hence it is associated with pleasurable sensations, which include snacking on treats.
Unfortunately, too much dopamine is bad for you. Excessive dopamine is associated with delayed puberty, decreased immunity, menstrual disorders, and infertility. On top of that, it is a factor that contributes to addictive behaviour. If you’re constantly snacking and eating out of boredom, you should not be surprised if this becomes a bad habit you can no longer control. Your body will continue craving treats even if you’re full.
Continuous eating out of boredom is harmful to your health as it could lead to obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Remember that boredom eating only gives you very little reward and no true long-term happiness. In fact, it will drive you to keep on overeating, making you feel worse. Now is the time to break the bad habit because what you put in your mouth impacts your longevity. Below are some tips to help you stop eating out of boredom:
Identify What Triggers Your Behavior
If you want to prevent something from happening, you must start by finding out what causes the behaviour. Often, people are impulsive and act without thinking. This means you may end up grabbing some snacks not because your stomach is growling but because it has become a habit. Thus, you must identify what stimulates you to eat even if you’re not hungry. Some common triggers are:
- Grabbing chips and munching while watching TV
- Coming home from work to grab comfort food
- Eating mindlessly while doing paperwork or school work
- Treating yourself to ice cream and cake just because
- Snacking while playing online games
- Late night snacking due to insomnia
You need to be aware of your eating habits, so you can change them. And one way to do that is to keep a food diary. Jot down everything you put in your mouth during the day, including drinks. Include notes on what you’re craving and what you are doing.
Doing this for a few weeks will tell you about your eating patterns and reveal triggers. When you know what they are, you can come up with ways to manage them. Seeing your logbook may be the wake-up call you need to stop you from mindless eating.
Another tip is that if watching TV tends to make you eat, you may want to try reducing your TV time.
Learn the Difference Between Real VS Psychological Hunger Pangs
This suggestion may sound silly, but many people get confused between the two. At times, you may even mistake thirst for hunger. Thus, you need to learn what real physical hunger is so you’ll know when you should actually need to eat and nourish your body. Here are the most common signs:
- Growling tummy
- Stomach feels empty or hollow
- Pain the tummy area
- Some people experience shakiness and headaches
Remember, these physical manifestations will grow more intense if it has been a while since you’ve eaten. If you cannot ignore the quell in your belly and you’d be happy to munch on anything from superfoods to snacks, then that’s most likely true hunger. However, if you’re just craving something very specific, it could mean otherwise. Take time to pause and ask yourself if you are truly hungry. Sometimes, doing something as simple as this can stop you.
Find a Distraction to Occupy Your Time
At times, you may have the strong urge to eat even if you’re not hungry. When you experience this, it is helpful to find a distraction. You must train your mind and body to find happiness elsewhere other than food. Break the monotonous rut you’re on by focusing on other things.
There are so many things that you can do. When you try something new, you may forget that you wanted to grab a snack in the first place. For example, you can try the following activities:
- Try knitting or crocheting
- Learn to play a musical instrument
- Get up and dance to your fave ditties
- Read a compelling book
- Go for a walk or run
- Do a Zumba workout
- Go swimming
Doing something with your hands is especially useful to stop eating out of boredom because if your hands are occupied, you’re less likely to use them to reach for food.
There are just so many things you can do to occupy your time. Creating a to-do list would be very helpful as your activities will bump off mindless snacking. Then, when boredom hunger pangs strike, you can tackle the stuff on the list. It’s a winning situation for you because you can get things done while avoiding the excess calories.
Sip on Tea
Water is the number one beverage in the world, followed by tea. If you want to stop eating out of boredom, you need both nearby. Water is the purest liquid in the world which your body needs to function. You need at least eight glasses of water a day and more if you take medications, sweat a lot, live in a tropical climate, and drink caffeine.
Alternatively, tea is also a great choice because it tastes refreshing and has fewer calories than other drinks. Besides, tea is rich in antioxidants and has so many health benefits. So when you’re bored, drinking tea and water will keep your mouth and hand occupied.
Sometimes, the act of lifting something to your lips is what your body is missing. So instead of giving in to junk food due to faux hunger, reach for water and nourishing teas instead. Besides, drinking more means staying hydrated, so there are fewer chances for you to mistake thirst for hunger.
Try Brushing Your Teeth With Minty Toothpaste
One of the most effective ways to curb boredom eating is brushing your teeth with minty toothpaste. Gargling mouthwash will also help because the minty taste makes your mouth feel very clean and refreshed. And you wouldn’t want to undo your efforts at all! On top of that, eating with a minty aftertaste gives food a weird flavour.
Besides, the action of brushing your teeth sends signals to your brain that it’s now time for you to stop eating. This happens because brushing teeth is a habit that’s usually done when you’re done with a meal. It is also one of the last things you may do before getting ready for bed at night. As a bonus, you will have cleaner, shinier, whiter, and healthier teeth.
Shift Your Mindset to Bust Boredom Eating
Your mindset is everything because your brain controls what the rest of your body will do. Hence, you need to shift your mind and reframe boredom eating into something more constructive and positive. For example, instead of mindless eating because you’ve got nothing to do, you can try the following activities:
- Write a gratitude journal to remind yourself of all your blessings
- Listen to motivational podcasts on health
- Watch educational Youtube videos that keep you inspired
- Learn to meditate as this mindfulness practice stops you from compulsive eating
- Go for a walk and connect with nature
Improving your mentality will help you stop boredom snacking. But, at the same time, it will transform your bad habit into something more productive and rewarding. Instead of getting a temporary feel-good dopamine hit, you can feel genuinely good inside out with your new routine.
It’s Okay to Be Bored
In this fast-paced world, many people have glorified being busy. Everyone is so used to the rat race, so they tend to panic and feel useless when they have nothing to do. Now is the time to remember that it feels good to relax and just unwind.
Being bored is truly okay, and it is not a sign that you are failing. Stop and just be! You don’t have to be doing something every second of every single day. In fact, doing nothing once in a while makes for a more productive life.
Learn to stop and smell the roses and disconnect from the buzz of the world. Embrace the idea that you are free and don’t need to do anything. Instead, learn to enjoy and be fully present in the moment.
However, if you’ve tried everything and you’re still a slave to boredom eating, you may be experiencing underlying health issues. You can have a nutritional deficiency that’s making you crave food. It could also be something more serious like Seasonal Affective Disorder which is a mental health concern.
If you’ve come up with a plan to curb mindless eating, but you just fail no matter what, speak to your doctor. A CircleDNA test can give you insight into your eating habits, as it will tell you if you’re genetically more likely to have higher or lower appetite control. The test results will also reveal the most optimal meal plan for you, based on your DNA. When you’re armed with the right information, you can make better food choices and kick your boredom eating to the curb once and for all.