If you want to know how to overcome unhealthy eating habits fuelled by emotions like stress, anxiety, sadness, anger, and boredom, this post has tons of helpful tips to teach you how to control your mindset, beat cravings, and make healthier choices. From learning what your triggers are, to ensuring you are fuelling your body correctly, to creating healthy habits for lasting change, learn how to stop boredom eating once and for all!
9 Ways to Stop Boredom Eating
1. IDENTIFY YOUR TRIGGERS
In my experience, boredom eating tends to be situational, so before you grab a bag of chips, jar of Nutella, or box of cookies from your kitchen pantry, take the time to write down the events that precipitated your desire to feast on unhealthy foods. A stressful day at work, drinking too much alcohol (which has been shown to lower our inhibitions), and fighting with your significant other can all cause you to reach for food even when you’re not hungry. And sometimes we overeat out of sheer boredom, often when we’re watching TV at the end of the day. The trick is to pinpoint what your trigger is so you can proactively plan around it. Spend a week or two writing down as much as you can about the situations surrounding your food intake, look for trends, and identify how you can curb these unhealthy habits moving forward.
2. ASK YOURSELF IF YOU’RE HUNGRY OR BORED
Once you’ve identified what triggers you to eat when you’re feeling bored, stressed, sad, or anxious, the next step is to find ways to cope with those feelings that don’t involve food. I once read that instead of rewarding ourselves with food, we should change our mindset and treat ourselves to a workout instead. Of course, this isn’t always feasible (or desirable), but there are other ways you can feed your feelings. Go for a walk around the block, call a friend on the phone, make yourself a cup of tea, watch a funny movie, or go to bed early with a good book.
And if you MUST have a taste of your favorite foods, limit yourself to a few bites and then replace the taste with something else so you don’t overdo it. For example, if you simply can’t stop thinking about that jar of Nutella that’s in your fridge and decide to give in to temptation and have a taste, follow it up with a bite of cheese, a cup of coffee, or a piece of gum so your craving has been satisfied and the taste has been removed from your mouth, making you less likely to eat the rest of the jar.
3. PRACTICE MINDFUL EATING
I once read that eating while simultaneously doing something else (like watching TV or working on your computer) often causes us to overeat, and have found that Mindful Eating can be effective in keeping food consumption in check. I personally draw the line at eating salads with chopsticks and chewing each bite 25 times (lol), but if you try to eat all of your meals and snacks without distraction so you can enjoy the taste and pay attention to your hunger cues, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much more control you have in your plight to stop boredom eating at other times throughout the day.
4. EAT A WELL-BALANCED DIET
Incorporating lean protein into each of your meals is paramount in keeping hunger at bay as it keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time. Chicken, eggs, beans, seafood, and low-fat dairy are great options, but if you struggle to find natural sources of lean protein, a good protein powder may be the way to go. Healthy fats are also important as they satisfy you mentally and physically, stabilize your blood sugar, and help curb sugar cravings. Make sure every meal you eat contains some sort of healthy fat, whether it’s fish, olives, cheese, nuts, or avocados.
If you want to know how to stop boredom eating, commit to drinking more water each day. Drinking an adequate amount of H2O keeps energy levels up and helps stabilize hunger. Proper hydration can also affect blood sugar levels, so make sure you’re drinking the recommended 8 8-ounce glasses of water daily to keep your hunger in check. And when you do find yourself craving a snack, have a glass of water and wait 20 minutes to see if the feeling passes. If you still feel hungry, eat a small and healthy snack, such as Greek yogurt and berries or apple slices with natural peanut butter to keep you going until your next meal.
6. PLAN YOUR MEALS AND SNACKS
Another way to stop boredom eating is to create a formal meal plan that includes your meals and snacks for the day so you know exactly what you’re eating (and when you’re eating it). You can use an app like My Fitness Pal, which allows you to set specific macronutrient goals to help with weight loss/maintenance. By taking the time to plan ahead, you can ensure your meals and snacks contain a mix of carbs, healthy fats, and lean proteins to ensure you feel full and satiated after eating, making you less likely to reach for unhealthy foods. Planning and tracking your food intakes also allows you to build in snacks and treats so you can enjoy your favorite foods on the regular without going completely off the rails. Allowing yourself to indulge in a small serving of your favorite foods whenever you want so that you never feel like you’re depriving yourself will make you much less likely to go on a bender and eat everything in site when life gets boring or stressful.
7. DON’T KEEP JUNK FOOD AT HOME
A list of tips to stop boredom eating wouldn’t be complete without this advice, and while it may sound obvious, very few people actually put this idea into practice. The idea of not having something on hand to satisfy our sweet tooth or salty cravings when they strike makes us feel uncomfortable, and we convince ourselves that we will be able to resist temptation. If this sounds like you, it’s time to get real about your goals. If you have a habit of reaching for certain foods when you’re feeling bored, stressed, anxious, angry, or sad, commit to removing those items from your house for 30 days to see if it makes a difference. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
8. DISTRACT YOURSELF
Another great trick to try if you’re trying to stop boredom eating is to find a way to distract yourself. When those familiar feelings of hunger hit and you’ve knocked down a glass of water and confirmed you’re bored more than you are hungry, find something else to pour your energy into. Go for a walk around the neighborhood, run errands, organize a closet, lift weights, call a friend, empty your inbox, fold laundry…you get the idea. Activities that require some sort of concentration are great as they force you to focus on something other than food, and physically changing your environment can also be helpful.
9. REPLACE BAD HABITS WITH NEW ONES
My last tip for those who want to know how to stop boredom eating is to find a new vice. Instead of reaching for chips, chocolate, or cheese when you’re trying to unwind in front of the TV at night, replace your unhealthy habits with something else. Drink a glass of flavored sparkling water, make yourself a warm mug of herbal tea, chew a few pieces of gum, or brush your teeth as a reminder to your brain that you are finished eating for the night.
If you struggle with emotional eating, you’re not alone. Many people have a tendency to self-medicate through unhealthy food choices. And while we should never be ashamed for enjoying the foods we love, we need to recognize when it’s becoming problematic.
If you want to know how to stop boredom eating, I hope the tips and ideas in this post prove useful to you! Remember to identify your triggers and replace them with healthier options, stay hydrated and eat a well-balanced diet comprised of carbs, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and find ways to distract yourself and replace bad habits with more productive activities.