How to Stop Boredom Eating
How to stop boredom eating is one of my most frequently asked questions. Here are some real-life tips to help you gain more control (and freedom!) around your eating habits, troubleshoot why boredom eating is happening, and come up with a plan to lessen your boredom eating.
1. Boredom eating or hunger? Evaluate whether or not you’re eating enough throughout the day.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “trust me, I eat enough!” because you feel like you overeat. Here’s a little known fact about boredom eating: sometimes, it’s not actually boredom eating at all! Common things like skipping meals, going too long in between meals, and missing out on certain nutrients (ex: not eating enough protein/carbs/fats at meals) can set off biological urges (aka hunger!) that will have you reaching for food mindlessly. Your 8:30pm “boredom eating” might just be that you skipped breakfast, skimped on a carb at dinnertime, or didn’t eat enough calories at lunch. In our society we’ve been conditioned to believe that we should be able to survive on as little food as possible, but the fact of the matter is we need FUEL!
2. Practice taking a pause.
Taking a simple 30-60 second pause before you’re about to grab that handful of chips can be super effective. Use those few seconds to ask yourself these questions:
- Do I want this?
- How am I feeling right now?
- How hungry am I right now?
- Am I actually hungry for something more substantial right now?
- If I’m not actually hungry, is there something else I can do to fill this need for me?
If you decide, “You know what, I’m really not hungry right now”, sometimes that’s enough to move on and do something else (and I recommend making a quick list to have on hand of things you can do, details below!).
Not sure? Or, if you’re hungry or the pull to eat just feels too strong, eat! Lessening boredom eating doesn’t mean you’ll stop completely, and that’s normal!
3. Add some mindfulness!
Once you’ve “committed” to having something to eat, make it as mindful as possible. Here’s how:
- Take your food out of the container and on to a bowl, plate, etc.
- Sit down, put your phone down, turn the TV off. Minimize as many distractions as possible.
- Put your full attention into your food! Are you enjoying it? Is it as enjoyable as you expected? How does it smell? How does it taste?
- If it’s truly boredom eating, it will usually be much more apparent at this point because it won’t taste quite as good and won’t be quite as enjoyable as it would be if you were truly hungry. Bringing awareness to that can be a key learned experience for future “boredom eating” episodes.
4. Reflect on why boredom eating happened, plan for next time, and move on.
Boredom eating WILL happen, even with the most amazing strategies in place. It is completely normal to sometimes to turn to food for comfort, to fill boredom, because you just feel like eating something, you’ve had a stressful day, etc etc. Make sure to fully acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with you, it happens sometimes! Beating yourself up after boredom eating isn’t going to help. Guilt and shame do not drive motivation to change. Instead, take a few minutes to troubleshoot why it happened and come up with a plan for next time. Here are some of my favorite troubleshooting questions and prompts to work through after you’ve had an episode of boredom eating.
- Are there any patterns happening with my boredom eating?
- Certain times of the day?
- Busy days? Slow days?
- Days that I haven’t eaten enough, went a long time without eating or skipped meals?
- Establishing patterns and paying close attention to your daily habits will help you to pinpoint exactly where you can put some focus.
- Example: If you’re “boredom eating” every day at 2:30pm, you could test out planning for a balanced snack instead.
- Example: If you’re “boredom eating” happens more often on days that you skip breakfast, make breakfast a priority!
- Make a list of 2-3 things you can do instead of boredom eating, and keep it handy!
- Examples: Make a hot cup of tea, call a friend, read, draw a bath, complete a task you’ve been putting off, clean, organize, journal. Everyone’s list will look a little different. Choose things that work for you!
Becoming a mindful eater and changing your habits takes time, patience, troubleshooting and practice. It’s okay if it doesn’t happen overnight! Like any other part of your nutrition and wellness journey, make sure you’re giving yourself lots and lots of grace along the way. The good news is that there are so many opportunities every single day to figure out what works best for you with food, and why certain things are happening.
Do you need more support and guidance while you master your balance with food? My self-paced and super supportive membership community, The Balanced Life, walks you through my proven method, step-by-step.
Have questions? I’d love to help! Contact me here!