Emotional eating is when you constantly consume food for comfort and stress relief. Eating out of boredom shouldn’t become a chronic issue. If it does, it becomes a way for a person to cope with their boredom, and food gives a sense of false purpose and fullness that the person is striving for. It would help if you started recognizing the difference between hunger and emotional eating. Self-awareness of your meals, portions and timely nutritious meals helps too. Avoid engaging with meals in front of a screen and find hobbies or activities to immerse yourself when you’re bored to break away from boredom eating. If you’re having a lot of trouble, consult a dietician.
Sitting on the couch on the weekend with nothing to do, you switch on your favorite show you have already watched a hundred times and open a bag of chips to munch on the side.
Were you really hungry when you did that, or were you eating out of boredom?
There’re different instances throughout the week when you’ve nothing to do, involving mindless eating. It can be confusing to know if this is a habit developed out of boredom or if you are hungry.
While there’s nothing wrong with eating when you’re bored, it can quickly become an issue. When is it that boredom eating becomes an issue? How can it affect your health, and what should you do?
Table of Contents
- Hunger vs. boredom eating
- Why do I eat when I’m bored?
- Is eating when I’m bored a disorder?
- How can I stop boredom eating?
- To summarise
Hunger vs. boredom eating
When you ask someone how they feel when hungry, some describe it as a feeling, and others might give you a more scientific explanation for it.
When someone truly feels hungry, their stomach rumbles, and there’s this emptiness one feels in the stomach.
While describing this feeling is difficult, we know it involves a complex interplay of hormones, biochemical processes, and physical reactions.
Our body needs food for survival, and the basic instinct is to do anything that does the job.
Boredom hunger is something even more complex to define or understand. It means eating out of boredom when you’ve nothing better to do.
Another famous name for it could be munching. But it could also be associated with eating out of feeling bored.
It could be a psychological hunger when you desire to eat but feel no physical signs that your body needs food.
|Physical Hunger||Boredom Eating|
|It develops slowly over time.||It comes suddenly or abruptly.|
|Desiring a variety of food groups.||Craving only certain foods.|
|When there’s a sensation of fullness, it’s taken as a cue to stop eating.||Binging on food and not feeling a sensation of emotional fullness.|
|Have no negative feelings about eating.||Feeling guilt or shame about eating.|
Why do I eat when I’m bored?
Eating the food you wish to eat when you’re bored has nothing wrong with it.
But eating when you’re bored is categorized as a form of emotional eating, and feeling bored is also one of the emotions, like feeling stressed, angry, or anxious. Eating can sometimes feel good when you’ve nothing better to do.
When we don’t have anything else to engage with, we find food, and eating it releases dopamine in our brain. It’s tied with the feeling of reward or pleasure.
Eating becomes a way of raising our dopamine levels, and constantly repeating boredom eating will make our body adapt to deriving pleasure from eating.
It can happen when you’re watching a show or not doing something engaging enough.
Is eating when I’m bored a disorder?
Eating when you’re bored is not wrong, and it’s something that everyone does at some point or the other. But only if you do it once in a while and not make it an everyday habit.
When you find yourself munching away when you’re bored several times a week or more, then it becomes an issue.
You may even feel guilty or ashamed of eating afterward, knowing you ate even when you weren’t hungry.
It becomes an endless cycle of excess eating of unhealthy foods, often resulting in weight gain. Eating food is an engaging activity when you’ve nothing better to do.
Food, in this case, leads to a false feeling of fulfillment and eases the emptiness of not doing anything.
How can I stop boredom eating?
If you notice your habit of eating when you’re bored is becoming increasingly too common for you, then try following these simple tricks and tips to avoid boredom eating:
1. Adjust your eating schedule
You can start by adjusting your eating schedule.
When your meals are not defined, and the timing keeps changing, it can mess up your hunger, and you tend to eat whenever and wherever.
Maintain a healthy diet to avoid boredom eating. Have full meals at specific times each day.
Having a schedule will keep you full, and your habit of munching or snacking when you’re bored might disappear.
2. Don’t restrict your favorite foods
If your comfort food is ice cream and you tend to have it at least twice a week, then do it twice a week but in moderate quantity.
Limiting your favorite foods can negatively impact your diet, raising issues like food cravings and eating out of boredom.
Depriving yourself of your favorite meals never works in anyone’s favor and can be counterproductive, so eat things you like instead of limiting the quantity.
3. Snack time
When it comes to food, each person’s body works differently.
While some can work perfectly by having two meals a day, another person might need to eat every two hours to fuel their body.
You can’t specify the amount of food a person should eat. Some might require snacks in the evening with their coffee, and that’s perfectly healthy too.
In fact, snacking in between meals helps with small hunger pangs and is healthy for our body.
You can choose to snack on healthy things or mix them with junk food. But snacking at specific times can help you from unnecessary snacking when you’re bored.
4. Practicing self-awareness
Easier said than done! But if you want to break away from eating out of boredom, you’ve to dig deeper into your emotions and identify your triggers.
You must learn the art of mindful eating. Knowing when you’re eating out of boredom and hunger can help you break this habit.
When you recognize your common triggers, like looking at pictures of food on social media, you know how to handle such triggers better and practice mindful eating.
In such cases, journaling or maintaining a food diary about your journey and emotions can help a lot.
5. Don’t eat in front of a screen
With our mobiles, laptop, and television, everything has become smart around us, making more and more options to browse through available.
It’s rare to see a person sitting idle while eating meals nowadays.
Even when people are in a group, they’re more on their phones, so it’s almost impossible to see an individual having meals without looking at a screen. Not just you; even I’ve been guilty of this habit.
While it’s easier and less lonely to eat meals this way, it also takes away all the experience of the food we’re having at that time. We tend not to notice the taste so much, nor are we conscious of our meals in any way.
This does impact our sense of hunger and taste. So, try to break out of this habit and change your relationship with food.
Have a meal today without looking at any screen and notice the difference this can bring.
6. Engage yourself
When our mind isn’t stimulated enough or doesn’t feel engaged, it tends to pick on the munching habit more often.
What you’re doing isn’t engaging enough and needs to change.
Trying out new things is always an option but exercising, stretching, and taking a walk are other things you can do.
There’re always things you can find to do where you wouldn’t feel the need to snack out of boredom.
How can I tell if I’m really hungry?
For some people, it can be challenging to distinguish real hunger from emotional eating. It could be because they haven’t felt hunger before; after all, they tend to eat before they can feel truly hungry.
But here are some tips to know if you’re really hungry or not:
– A feeling of emptiness in the stomach or stomach rumbling.
– Dry mouth or desire to drink a beverage.
– Drinking a glass of water and it goes straight to the pit of your stomach.
– Try to be aware of your different feelings throughout the day, including when you feel hungry, and notice when you feel the same again.
Feeling hungry can be a different experience for each person but what needs to be done is to differentiate it from psychological hunger.
What causes mindless eating?
Mindless eating can happen when you’re distracted or bored, leading to a very unhealthy way of mindless eating.
When you limit your food quantity on a plate, it’s easier to know the amount you consume even if you’re distracted elsewhere.
Minding your portion size can make a big difference, and so does being self-aware of what you eat mindlessly.
Why do I want to eat all the time?
If you desire to eat throughout the day, you’re doing something wrong with the meal intake.
This constant hunger is due to a lack of healthy and nutritious meals, which could lack protein, fiber, and enough fat.
Environmental factors could also impact it. When you have fuller meals at a defined time each day, this constant hunger goes away.
Everyone’s diet works differently, so find out what works best for you.
Eating out of boredom can quickly become a habitual thing. While everyone does this sometimes, if you constantly find yourself doing this, then there’s a need for intervention.
There’re a few habits you can correct related to your meal portion and what you’re eating to help reduce the chances of it.
Being mindful of your meals and engaging yourself can also help break away from this habit.
If you find yourself too deep into it and cannot find solutions, it’s better to consult a dietician to gain a better perspective on your situation.