It may sound silly but eating out of boredom and not a lack of actual food – is one of the primary causes of weight gain. Though it may seem as though this is an easy problem to overcome, it doesn’t take much to find yourself looking for something in the pantry, or staring into the fridge, without even knowing exactly how you came to be there.
Why We’re Always Eating Out of Boredom
Eating out of boredom can be exceptionally problematic if we don’t keep it in check. Some of us find ourselves taking diet pills to avoid weight gain to help overcome this habit that can feel completely out of our control.
A number of studies took place at the University of Limerick to help better understand this connection. They all found that being bored had a direct link with unhealthy eating. The researchers concluded that the reason people enjoyed eating more than they needed to when they were bored was that the activity helped to distract them from the unpleasant boredom feeling.
Gravitating Toward Certain Foods
Beyond the fact that we tend to eat too much and in an unhealthy way when we’re bored, the researchers also found that there are specific foods that seem to be our targets when we’re feeling this way. More specifically, boredom loves junk food.
The reason is that certain junk foods come with highly positive associations. Since we were kids, we celebrated birthday parties and other important celebrations with cakes, candies and other treats heavy in sugar. When we head to the far, an amusement park or even just to the movies, we eat butter-drenched popcorn, funnel cakes, fries and other greasy, fatty, salty foods. These foods are associated with times of happiness and fun, and they taste great.
When we’re eating out of boredom, we’re drawn to those same foods because, whether we know it or not, we’re trying to replicate those same positive and pleasurable feelings, said the researchers. We do this in all forms of emotional eating, including when we’re bored.
Tips to Stop Eating Out of Boredom
The following tips are great ways to help you to be able to overcome eating out of boredom by learning how to develop new habits that will help you to lose weight and to prevent you from gaining it back again.
Start paying attention
Be mindful about your eating habits. Instead of just assuming that you’re doing fine, track what you eat for a couple of weekdays and over a weekend. Pay attention to what you’re eating, how much, and how you were actually feeling at the time. You might discover that you are just mindlessly eating out of boredom or just because you want to, and not necessarily because you are truly hungry. Learn about your tendencies toward snacking and become aware of them so that you can design new habits to stop yourself from eating unless you are actually hungry.
Reconsider the way you watch TV
When you’ve had a long day and all you want to do is relax, it’s very easy to plunk down onto the sofa and turn on the TV for an evening of mindless entertainment. That said, for many people, watching television automatically brings on the urge to snack. To break yourself from this habit, it’s a good idea to keep your hands busy so that you simply can’t eat. Lift some hand weights, lie on the floor and do some exercises that don’t stop you from seeing what is happening on the screen, or learn a new craft, such as knitting or crochet, that keeps both hands too occupied for you to be able to handle food.
Drink more water to stop eating out of boredom
Many people confuse the sensation of being thirsty for being hungry. It is very common for people to feel that they need to keep eating, when the solution to their pangs is actually proper hydration. Make sure that you are drinking enough water. If you feel the need to snack, drink some water and wait 20 minutes or so to see if the feeling of hunger is still there. Having something to drink can prevent you from eating out of boredom a lot of the time.
Wait 10 minutes
Sometimes, overcoming a certain craving, especially when you’re eating out of boredom, is simply a matter of time. What feels relatively urgent right now can fade away once you’re distracted by something else. Use the above tips and wait ten minutes. You’ll likely find that the junk food you’d wanted to eat isn’t nearly as important to you anymore. You’ll be better hydrated, have paid attention to what you’re doing and will have focused on keeping your hands busy instead. The more you practice this habit, the easier it will become and the more naturally you’ll do it.