If you’re wondering “how can I stop boredom eating?”, you’re already ahead of the game because you recognize what is triggering your eating.
In my experience as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist working with women who struggle with eating out of boredom, I have found many people don’t realize what is causing their mindless eating struggle.
So, congratulations! You’re halfway there to stop boredom eating.
Read on to learn how to stop eating out of boredom.
- How can I stop boredom eating?
- What doesn’t work to stop mindless eating: distracting yourself with something else.
- 7 Tips to Stop Boredom Eating Today
- 1 – Identify what is stopping you from feeling good and take care of the underlying issue.
- 2 – Let yourself feel bored.
- 3 – Connect to your core values or purpose to stop boredom eating.
- 4 – Try a mindful eating experiment.
- 5 – Do something calming.
- 6 – Rest.
- 7 – Dance! Or move your body in some other pleasurable way.
How can I stop boredom eating?
The first step on the journey to stop boredom eating is understanding why you are doing it in the first place.
Eating out of boredom is a form of emotional eating, or mindless eating. These are issues many people deal with, and they aren’t necessarily a problem until they cause you to feel out of control or stop you from reaching your health or self-care goals.
When you eat, you get positive reinforcement in the form of feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine. Boredom eating also gives you a temporary reprieve from having to feel the discomfort of boredom or other feelings. This positive reinforcement means you’re more likely to do it again.
In short, you struggle with boredom eating because it works to make you feel better in the moment. Recognizing this fact and practicing compassion for yourself will help you stop the behavior more quickly.
Mindless eating: Why we eat more
Many people also find that mindless eating due to boredom leads to eating more than they would otherwise.
This happens because eating is used as a distraction or numbing agent from the feeling of boredom, so it’s easier to disconnect from physical cues of satiety and fullness as well. You simply don’t realize when you are full.
Boredom eating at work
Another common complaint is that it is easy to get stuck boredom eating at work. This is especially true in the afternoon in order to both combat boredom and numb fatigue.
The good news is, the same tactics I recommend to stop mindless boredom eating below will work for people struggling with boredom eating at work.
What doesn’t work to stop mindless eating: distracting yourself with something else.
The solution to eating out of boredom is not to simply find something else to do.
The best way to stop mindless eating is by learning how to handle uncomfortable feelings. When you can understand why you feel uneasy, you can take steps to make yourself feel better or grow in your ability to tolerate boredom. This will help you avoid eating without thinking and make healthier choices.
In essence, you have the opportunity to “grow through what you go through” and use your experience of boredom eating to become a better, more authentic version of yourself.
Or, you can just change the channel and see if a new television show solves the problem. (Excuse the snark, but I think we both know it won’t).
7 Tips to Stop Boredom Eating Today
The following tips will help you stop eating out of boredom. These tips will give you something else to do when you feel bored. And, more importantly, change your relationship to food and yourself so you can tolerate boredom without eating.
1 – Identify what is stopping you from feeling good and take care of the underlying issue.
If you are bored, there is usually a good reason you aren’t doing something more interesting or stimulating.
For example, you may be:
- Too tired or overwhelmed at the end of the day to take on a meaningful project.
- Unwilling to engage in an enjoyable activity because you’ve got a long to-do list of chores, and yet you don’t want to do those.
- Unsatisfied because you spent your day doing things for other people rather than pursuing your own interests.
One of my clients found herself bored every evening, feeling like she had to watch TV with her mother, and yet not really interested in TV at all.
In each of these cases boredom isn’t the underlying issue, and eating to masks the real problem at hand.
If you need help to identify what is causing the boredom, read the next tip.
2 – Let yourself feel bored.
You will be able to stop boredom eating when you let yourself feel bored.
It’s hard to feel bored because you have well-worn neural pathways that take you from bored to eating very quickly. The good news is, you can re-wire your brain away from immediate eating by allowing yourself to feel bored.
For people who have a history of restrictive dieting, trauma, or eating disorders, feeling bored instead of eating may bring up feelings of panic or anxiety. When your body is used to the comfort of eating, taking the comfort away can be difficult. To help calm the anxiety of feeling your boredom, download my free Crave Busting audio guide.
If you allow yourself to feel boredom, one of two things will likely happen. You’ll either:
- Have a kids-in-the-summer moment where you find something more enticing to do, therefore no longer needing to eat to soothe.
- Or, you’ll have insight into why you feel stuck in your boredom (as mentioned in tip #1).
After using the Crave Busting audio guide, one woman discovered her eating struggles were fueled by her recent empty nest and the loneliness she felt when her husband was traveling. By letting herself experience, rather than numb, these feelings she was able to care for her underlying needs without eating.
3 – Connect to your core values or purpose to stop boredom eating.
If your boredom eating stems from not having anything meaningful to do, getting reacquainted with what’s important to you may be the best next step.
As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist working with women to treat emotional and binge eating, I often lead my clients through an exercise to identify their core values, and then use these values as a north star to determine actions and goals that will make them feel more fulfilled, so they don’t need food to soothe.
Focusing on discovering what’s important to you, rather than how to take food away, is a way to change your behavior without feeling deprived or restricted. It’s a focus on abundance, rather than scarcity.
4 – Try a mindful eating experiment.
The opposite of mindless eating is mindful eating, so it stands to reason that experimenting with mindful eating can stop boredom eating.
The important part of this tip is that you treat mindful eating as an experiment, and pay attention to your experience. The point is to try mindful eating and notice what is interesting and what is uncomfortable about it, rather than commit yourself for the rest of your life.
To get started with mindful eating, take your meal or snack to a table and turn off nearby screens. Start by taking a deep breath and engaging your 5 senses, first while observing the food in front of you, then observing the food on your utensil and again in your mouth. What does the food look like? Feel like? Sound like? Smell like? Taste like?
Notice how the experiment went for you. Think about how you can incorporate elements of your experience into your normal eating routine.
5 – Do something calming.
Sometimes the urge to eat out of boredom comes from the desire not to feel stress, and by numbing the stress with food, you end up numbing your motivation to do something fun or pleasurable.
By calming your nervous system, you can lower the stress and the need to soothe with food, which will make you more open to doing something fun, which will stop boredom eating.
A few ways to calm yourself to stop eating out of boredom:
- Try the Crave Busting Audio Guide
- Download a mindfulness-based self-compassion meditation
- Try tapping for stress eating
6 – Rest.
Could it be that you are mindlessly eating out of boredom because you are actually tired?
Fatigue is a well-proven reason to eat. A 2016 meta-analysis found that for every hour you are sleep deprived, you are likely to eat an additional 385 calories.
If rest isn’t an option because you are boredom eating at work, try a quick walk around the building, or even better, find a calm spot for a quick power nap to restore energy and motivation.
7 – Dance! Or move your body in some other pleasurable way.
If all else fails, dance! You can get a dopamine boost from your favorite tunes, and moving your body can reduce stress and make you feel better.
Dancing lifts your mood and gives you something to do, a double-whammy to stop eating out of boredom.
If dancing isn’t your go-to try putting on your favorite song while you march in place or take a walk around the block.
Whatever tip you choose to try, the question, “how can I stop boredom eating” is rooted, not in distraction, but in greater awareness of your feelings and what you need to feel good in the moment.