Most of us follow a weekly schedule to keep us on track. It usually includes work, sleep, and regular exercise with room to spare for a fun hobby. But doing the same things daily can start to feel repetitive and boring! Cue standing in front of the fridge, hoping for something new and exciting to pull you out of your lull. Read on to learn how to identify if you’re eating out of boredom, and try out some new tips to stop boredom eating.
Why Do We Eat?
There are several reasons why a person eats throughout the day. The most essential reason to eat is to give your body the energy to function. When you’re hungry, your body sends clear signs to tell you when it needs fuel. You might experience feelings of light-headedness, a dip in mood, and even jitters. These are all signs you need to eat.
Humans don’t only eat when they are physiologically hungry. They also turn to food to satisfy nostalgia, to celebrate traditions and milestones, or because they’ve associated eating with an activity. A popular example is craving popcorn anytime you go to the movies, even if you’ve just had a satisfying meal.
Now and then, boredom eating happens, but eating every time you feel bored is too often. If these eating habits are bothering you or affecting your health, it’s time to address it, and a Registered Dietitian can help.
What Is Boredom Eating?
Boredom eating is choosing to eat when there is not much else to do. It is considered an emotional response, and it is extremely common! When we feel bored and understimulated, we all look to quick fixes that can perk up our day, and usually, a great snack does the trick.
Why Does It Happen?
The root cause of boredom is unclear, but there are common ways people experience it:1
- Repetitive activities that become uninteresting.
- Completing daily tasks which are not rewarding.
- You feel energized but don’t have anywhere to direct your attention.
- Feeling unable to direct your focus and attention.
It’s normal to experience boredom once in a while, but too much is unhealthy and can decrease your quality of life. If you feel stuck in a rut, reach out to a friend or loved one for ideas to shake things up.
Binge Eating Out Of Boredom
A characteristic of being bored is the lack of focus and awareness while completing a task.2 This carries over to eating while bored too. You may not remember what you ate or even how many servings you consumed, which could be a binge.
You can read this article for tips on what to do after a binge. Your body and metabolism can handle a few scattered nights of overeating, but chronic binging can increase your risk of gaining unwanted weight.
Boredom Eating Treatment
There are no formal programs to treat boredom eating. The recommended course of action is redirecting boredom away from eating. You can’t escape the feeling of boredom entirely; you can manage how you respond.
Here are some tips to prevent boredom from creeping in:
- Add a unique element to a mundane task: timing yourself as you empty the dishwasher or when you fold the laundry.
- Use music or podcasts to keep your brain engaged while completing daily tasks. This can provide the stimulus you need to avoid boredom.
- Break large tasks into smaller, more manageable to-do’s. This can help a daunting task feel more approachable.
- Seek as much variety in your meals as possible. Try serving new recipes or buying new ingredients for your pantry.
- Meditative practice can help focus your brain and detract from boredom. While walking, try to find plants or natural items that satisfy all the rainbow colors.
- Unplug from technology for a few hours.
Most people are creatures of habit. You probably gravitate towards the same handful of activities that have stopped boredom in the past.
Your brain can associate these familiar activities with a dopamine response, your happy hormone. Many of us experience this sensation after eating, so eating while bored can make you feel positive emotions.
Try to break this link by doing a different activity. Instead of watching TV and mindlessly snacking, opt for reading a book in the bath or going for a walk in your local neighborhood. You don’t have to give up TV entirely, but changing your surroundings can pull you out of a monotonous routine.
Is Eating While Bored Always A Bad Thing?
If you get bored one night and end up snacking, don’t stress about it. It can happen to anyone! Remember to be extra kind to yourself in these moments because behavior change is hard, and self-compassion goes a long way in these moments.
Are There Any Health Risks of Boredom Eating?
A study from 2022 found that people who eat out of boredom are more likely to gain weight and have a more difficult time complying with weight loss goals.3
Eating more calories than your body can metabolize (or burn as energy) can increase your risk of unwanted weight gain. Although your weight alone doesn’t define your health status, weight gain bringing you to an overweight or obese status does carry health risks.
According to the CDC, people who are overweight or obese can be at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, different types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and mood disorders.4
How To Overcome Boredom Eating
Understanding the root cause of boredom eating is critical to improving your habits. Below you can find strategies and prompts to help you overcome boredom eating. You don’t have to tackle every idea at once. Instead, you can focus on one suggestion at a time and build on your progress.
Assess Your Appetite
The first step is to assess your appetite. Sometimes we think we are eating out of boredom, but we are hungry, especially in the evenings when the kitchen is nearby.
Most adults need approximately 2000 calories daily to function and complete usual tasks, but that number could be much higher based on your metabolic rate and level of physical activity.
To ensure you get enough calories in a day, consider following a consistent schedule and eating three meals. Add a few snacks throughout the day to ensure your bases are covered, and your energy levels are stable.
Practice Mindful Eating
Include mindful eating practices in your meal times.5 These techniques can enhance your satisfaction while eating and reduce the chances of overeating while you are bored.
Here are a few examples of mindful eating techniques:
- Eat slowly and try to pick out three flavors in your meal.
- Focus on chewing every bite of food until the consistency is uniform.
- Put your phone away in another room.
- Turn off the TV and laptop.
- Check in with your satiety and stop eating when you feel full. You can always go back for seconds if you need more food later.
Bringing these strategies to your meals will keep you focused on the task at hand: eating and enjoying your food. If you get bored and distracted, try returning to mindfulness practices again.
It’s possible to feel bored when you are restless and need to burn some energy. Finding a healthy way to move your body is vital for your overall health and mood. This paper from 2006 highlights all the benefits of regular physical activity:6
- Improved sleep.
- Stress relief.
- Increased energy and stamina.
- Reduced tiredness and increased mental alertness.
All of these combat boredom! The CDC recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, as well as two additional days of resistance training.7
If you don’t have access to gym equipment, you can use weighted items at home, like canned beans or large water jugs. You could also use your body weight and complete a yoga or pilates-style exercise.
You’ll probably have to try a few different things until you find a solution that works for you. Try to enjoy the process and approach new opportunities without judgment.
Limit Screen time
You’ve probably heard this tip before, but it is worth repeating. Limit your screen time, especially when it comes to meals. It’s easy to watch online content and binge a TV series, but it can negatively influence your dietary choices and health.
This review from 2022 demonstrated that people who eat in front of a screen are more likely to eat a diet low in fruits and vegetables, eat more fast food, and generally consume more calories than needed.8
Work With a Registered Dietitian
Once in a while, we all gravitate towards the fridge when we’re bored, just in case we missed something special. But if you’re consistently eating whenever you are bored, you may want to get expert advice on changing this.
A Registered Dietitian (RD) is a trained health professional who can teach sustainable nutrition tips to help manage eating from boredom. Nourish can connect with you an RD today and help you make lifelong changes.
Frequently Asked Questions
See a Registered Dietitian with Nourish
- Covered by insurance
- Virtual sessions
- Personalized care