How to Stop Eating When You're Bored
Craving potato chips or chocolate? One study found that people are more likely to eat fatty, sugary foods if they are bored. One of the study’s authors suggests that we experience low levels of dopamine, a brain chemical, when we’re bored, and this could drive us to compensate by eating fat and sugar.
So if you find yourself mowing through a bag of chips or noshing on sugary snacks on the regular, consider your mood. Are you actually hungry, or just antsy? Here are eight practical tips to help you step eating when you’re bored.
1. Sip some seltzer.
Next time you’re tempted to snack when you’re not really hungry, drink a fizzy glass of seltzer. The fluid will fill you up enough so you will hopefully pause long enough to think before you reach for that pint of ice cream.
2. Keep your hands busy.
If you’re tempted to snack when you’re watching Netflix, do something to keep your hands engaged — something that isn’t shoveling nachos into your face. Knitting, folding socks, or even catching up on emails will keep you occupied while you watch.
3. Avoid eating in bed.
If you know the places where unnecessary snacking goes down — sitting at your desk, lounging on your sofa, lying in bed while scrolling on your phone — it may be time to set physical boundaries around food.
For example, if you tend to snack on the couch while you watch Netflix at night, make it a rule that you don’t eat on the couch. Portion your food, put it on a plate, and eat it where, only where, eating is supposed to happen. Say, at the kitchen table. Then, after eating, you can leave the table and watch your show.
Not only will you break the pattern of snacking mindlessly in front of the television, but you’ll also learn that making eating a more formal affair can help you focus more on what you eat, why you’re eating it, and how much you consume.
4. Get some fresh air and do something active.
Get away from your desk and take an afternoon walk to keep your mind off snacking. Not only will this serve as a distraction from boredom eating, but sun exposure and being active may also help with boosting feel-good hormones like serotonin. That’s a triple whammy for combating mood swings.
5. Be mindful of when you are eating.
Is it five o’clock? Well, dinner’s in an hour. Is it an hour before bedtime? Well, all the sodium in that leftover pizza will likely mess with your sleep. It sounds simple, but taking a quick look at the time can be an easy, effective deterrent — odds are, if you’re not actually hungry, there’s a time-related reason to just move past the sweets.
6. Remove temptation.
Got a weakness for chocolate-covered almonds around 4 PM? Don’t store them in your desk drawer. Tend to crave jellybeans right before bed? Don’t buy them next time you’re at the store — it’s easier to avoid succumbing to the temptation when temptation isn’t even an option.
7. Eat often.
That might sound counterintuitive, but some experts suggest eating every two or three hours. The key, of course, is to plan healthy meals and snacks to keep yourself satisfied and avoid unhealthy cravings. Can’t resist popcorn at the movies? If you just ate a healthy snack before heading over, you probably won’t be hungry when you get there.
8. Ask yourself if you are really hungry.
The above steps may help you trick yourself into skipping unnecessary calories, but, alternatively, you might be the kind of person who’s more successful when you’re bluntly honest with yourself.
If so, next time you find yourself standing in front of the pantry, ogling some caramels, just ask yourself the simple question: “Am I really hungry? Or am I just eating because I’m bored?”
If you’re not hungry, shut the door.