4 Reasons for Boredom Eating & How to Stop
You just ate dinner, finished tidying up the kitchen, and now you’re sitting down to watch your favorite TV show or scroll through your phone. And then out of nowhere it hits - the urge to snack. Why, though? If you’re thinking certainly it can’t be because your body actually still requires more food and nourishment, then you are correct! What we perceive as hunger can oftentimes actually be attributed to other emotional, mental, or physical triggers, cues, and habits that are not true hunger. Don’t worry, though, you’re not alone. Market reports show that 94% of Americans enjoy a snack every day, and some more than once.1 Typically, these snacks are in addition to three full meals. Full meals combined with multiple snacks daily (especially if these snacks are heavy in calories, carbs, and added sugars) can lead to unwanted weight gain over time and difficulties with losing weight. So, why do we find ourselves reaching back into the fridge or pantry when we’re not experiencing true physical hunger? Here are a few reasons and some simple strategies for adjusting your snacking habits:
You may feel hungry, but sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between hunger and thirst. Oftentimes, these two types of cravings can feel identical, and it’s far more likely that your body is craving nourishment from hydration rather than nourishment from food. After all, many of us have been guilty of not drinking enough water daily from time to time. Water is the nutrient of life and in addition to curbing hunger and assisting with weight loss, provides the body with so many other benefits, too. So, next time you’re feeling “hungry,” instead of reaching for a handful of potato chips, drink a bottle of water first and wait a few minutes. What you may end up finding is that you’re no longer feeling “hungry” anymore - all along, you were just thirsty. If after 5-10 minutes, you’re still feeling that same urge to eat something, then put together a small snack for yourself to tide you over between meals. Protein combined with a healthy carbohydrate (such as a low-fat cheese stick and half an apple or low-sodium turkey breast atop a rice cake) can make for a great satiating combination. Protein drinks such as MRC’s High Nutrient Supplements also make for great mid-meal hunger-busters (and are easy to keep in your purse or desk when true hunger hits on-the-go).
You Aren't Eating the Right Things
Foods containing healthy fats and/or a protein plus a healthy carbohydrate will leave you filled longer, but a bag of cookies will just have you hungry again before you’ve hardly even finished. Being hungry again will lead to craving and eating another snack…and if that snack also is nutritionally deficient and loaded with added sugars, you’ll once again find yourself not feeling full…thus, the vicious “unsatisfied snacking” cycle continues. Aim for snacks that provide nutrition and are devoid of “empty calories” commonly found in sugary sweets and heavy processed carbohydrates. When you’re not snacking, be sure that your meals that you are eating are filled with ample and healthy portions of proteins, vegetables, healthy fats, and simple carbohydrates. If you haven’t tried these healthy Taco Bowls, you’re in for a real treat that’s a complete meal in one bowl and keeps you feeling full from one meal to the next! Even if after a nutritionally complete and filling meal, you find yourself still getting that inkling to snack, then try taking the edge off with some sugarless gum or by chewing ice. Oftentimes what we are actually craving is a habitual action (e.g., chewing) rather than the food or tastes behind it. This way you still go through the motions of chewing, but without the added calories and sugars.
You're Eating While Distracted
Do you know when people typically don’t snack? When they are busy (whether that’s playing a video game, on a light jog, or practicing a hobby). Many times we find ourselves reaching for a bowl of sweets or handful of chips when we’re idle such as watching TV. While you are certainly welcome to enjoy your down time however you see fit, it may be helpful to find more engaging activities (particularly tasks that engage your hands or take you away from the kitchen environment). If you feel inclined, next time you’ve got some downtime, give one of these engaging activities a try like taking a walk around the neighborhood, journaling your thoughts, ambitions, and goals, or learn to play the guitar! If those aren’t quite in your wheelhouse, then even simple things such as playing a game on a console or phone is counterintuitive to snacking because you’re using your hands, paying attention to what you’re doing, and probably don’t want to get your keyboard, screen, or controller dirty.
You're Actually Tired
It’s easy to be bored when you’re tired, and eating is the second best way to restore your energy (outside of sleep). However, sitting down and snacking will actually have the opposite effect and serve to deplete your energy. If you’ve already had a filling meal and plenty of water, but you still find yourself feeling sleepy, then it may be that you just need a small nap. Research from the Mayo Clinic suggests that a 10 to 20 minute power nap can prove to be restorative without leaving you feeling groggy for the rest of the day!
Managing your eating habits is just one piece of the weight loss puzzle, but it’s an important one. At Metabolic Research Center, our experts offer a comprehensive approach that delivers health strategies tailored to your body’s specific needs and helps you create actionable solutions and lasting habit changes to your lifestyle that lead to long term success for your health and self. Connect with a local MRC Team today to learn more about how to take the next step towards a healthier you!
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