Why You Eat When You’re Bored and What To Do Instead

It’s common that you eat when you’re bored. You’re ashamed, you worry it will lead to weight gain, and you feel afraid you’re leaning on food too much to cope with life.

We’ve discovered that “eating when you’re bored” is often a blanket statement for many other things. That’s why you feel stuck and helpless to change even if you’re aware of the issue. In order to actually change your eating behaviors you first need to decode your eating behaviors. 

This process takes self awareness, patience, and focused attention. We believe working with a dietitian and therapist can be essential for getting to the root of your issues and changing your eating. In the meantime, here are some very important questions to get you started.

Consider The Following

Are you bored eating or uninspired with life? Do you have life balance? Are the big parts of your life working for you? Jobs, money, school, home, relationships, intellectual pursuits, leisure, rest, etc. Are any unbalanced situations finite or have no end in sight?

Are you bored eating or disconnected from yourself? Do you need more rest, play, something new, time to yourself, a laugh, connection with someone, touch, a change of scenery, or something to look forward to?

Are you bored eating or unable to allow yourself downtime? Are you eating because it’s a “minute to yourself” or a reason to pause your to-do list? A time to sit down? A reason to step away from something? 

Are you bored eating or avoiding something? A difficult or unpleasant task? A tough conversation? Feelings of overwhelm? Feelings you don’t want to feel? 

Are you bored eating or lacking pleasure? Do you enjoy your life? Do you enjoy what you eat? Do you find ways to break up the mundane? A lunch to get out of the office? A yummy snack at work in the afternoon? A treat after the kids go to bed? A study break to watch a favorite show?

What To Do Next

Once  you begin to understand the specific roots behind your eating behaviors “the problem” you can move into some specific strategies and solutions. Based on the questions above, you can imagine just how personal this process can be. No one’s person problems or solutions will be the same as another’s. Only you know which solution is best for you.

This process isn’t limited to unwanted “overeating” sometimes we restrict our food intakes for the very same reasons. Consider the consequences of low energy, continued food interest/distractions, difficulty focusing/making decisions, risk for future overeating, significant health risks like low hormones, bone density, dry hair/skin, vitamin mineral deficiencies, and low mood.

The Process

Because the issues are specific, varied, and personal we find learning by example to be most helpful in getting started. See the examples below for the process to decode and change your eating behaviors. 

Step 1: Identify the problem

Example 1: I don’t allow myself a study break unless I’m eating, so I end up eating more than I need

Example 2: Lack of fulfillment and pleasure in life, eating to seek pleasure

Step 2: Think about a range of possible solutions

Example 1: I could: eat, set timer and take a break, study with a friend that takes breaks

Example 2: I could: continue to eat to seek pleasure, talk to a friend about how I’m feeling stuck in life, remind myself that I’m taking action on making change, write my worries into a journal

Step 3: Carefully think through each solution’s benefits and consequences

Example 1:

Eat/snack? I end up being inefficient studying and get distracted by my negative food thoughts

Set timer and take break? Even though I feel guilty, my eating is telling me I need breaks in studying

Study with friend? It’s nice to have a friend take breaks and I realize it’s a normal thing to do, but I end up getting distracted and chatting too much

Example 2:

Eating? It’s helpful in the moment but then I continue to feel unfulfilled

Friend? It’s nice to connect and have someone listen, but my friends usually try to offer advice and talk me out of how I’m feeling

Remind myself, reassure? This helps most of the time to interrupt and encourage myself in the moment, sometimes it’s really hard to do or I start to feel lonely

Write my worries into a journal? It helps me write my worries out, they feel less powerful. Sometimes, I start to get in my head and feel isolated.

Step 4: Pick the best solution(s) and make it actionable

Example 1: Setting a timer and taking a break will work. I’ll still need snacks if I’m studying for hours but hopefully with practice, I’ll see that I’m better at studying with focused breaks and snacks. 

Example 2: Writing my worries is best for me most of the time. I will do it everyday for 2 weeks and pick up if I miss a day or two. If I’m still feeling lost in 3 weeks, I’ll make a call to a therapist. 

Moving Forward

Now that you understand how to decode and begin to change your eating behaviors you will see food and eating differently. You might begin to understand yourself and eating in ways you didn’t before. It’s a powerful and permanent way to heal your relationship with food and connect with your body. If this process seems daunting, we’re here to help. Connect with us and inquire to become a client. We wish you the best in your food healing journey. 

Erica Drewry CEDRD, RDN, LD

ERICA DREWRY CEDRD, RDN, LD

Beyond overcoming her own food struggles, Erica is a trusted professional with 10 years of experience helping others realize a life not ruled by food. It takes an expert to personalize solutions and strategies to help you find your path out of obsession to wellness.

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