Been sitting around a lot lately with nothing to do? I can’t imagine why! If too much of your eating is occurring outside of mealtime out of boredom, it may be time to reevaluate your relationship with food.
Snacking’s fun. Who doesn’t love snacks? In the modern era, food in many parts of the world has become as much a source of entertainment as it is nourishment for survival.
A romantic dinner, popcorn at the movies, an ice cream cone in the park, these are all common ways we entertain ourselves with food. In the year of our lord 2020, food feels good!
As we’ve developed as a species, it’s a privilege to have the leisure time to make and eat food that brings us joy. Boredom is a privilege! But it can also be a curse, especially if you're trying to lose weight or suffer from a diet related health condition.
Ironically, we’ve never been more stimulated. Screens big and small are constantly clamoring for our attention. We’re overloaded with information everyday. Our curiosities can be gratified instantaneously. And through this chaos of stimulation, it seems we’ve never been more desensitized.
How to Stop Boredom Eating
The stress and overstimulation of modernity can lead us to tune out and start emotional eating. Who here watches The Great British Baking Show just to not have to think for a while? (Me). And when we turn off our brains, we tend to turn on an autopilot we can’t trust, one that keeps reaching for food until the bag of chips is empty.
If you’re snacking for sport, picking to pass the time or noshing for no reason, these ten tips can help beat the boredom and cookies that come with it.
1. Start Eating Mindfully
The biggest thing you can do to avoid eating out of boredom is to consider what you’re eating by practicing mindful eating.
Once in a college course we conducted an exercise of eating a blueberry to truly experience it. In it, participants first observed a single blueberry, then put it in their mouths, considering how it feels and first tastes before biting into it and enjoying the juicy flesh, each seed that spills out and finally swallowing the pulp down. The whole exercise can take up to a minute...to eat one blueberry.
You don’t have to eat blueberries and you don’t have to take a minute to eat one but the purpose of the exercise is paying attention to get more out of life, starting with the simple act of slowing down.
Most people don’t need to do more to be less bored, they just have to be present for what they are doing. Taking the time to enjoy your snack food will give you a fonder appreciation for whatever your favorite snack is and also stop you from blacking out an entire case of Girl Scout cookies.
2. Get Moving
Mindless snacking tends to occur when we are sedentary at home or work. When Netflix is queuing up the next episode automatically and we’re bedded down for a blissful session of vegging out, there’s no better opportunity to munch away.
Watching TV is scientifically linked to increased snacking regardless of hunger (1). Take away the opportunity to snack by turning off the television and get moving.
Going for a walk or bike ride, doing house chores or preparing a healthy meal for when you’re actually hungry are all perfect ways to get the blood flowing instead of the junk food.
If your goal is weight loss or just being less bored, an active lifestyle is an especially great replacement for snacking and reduce stress at the same time.
3. Drink Water and Other Beverages
If you need to reach for something habitually, hydrate! I’m not calling anyone out but chances are you’re not drinking enough water. Drinking water doesn’t just give you something to fidget with while you're bored, filling your stomach with water will make you feel less hungry and less apt to snack (2).
If just water is a little too ascetic for you, try coffee or tea or any non sugary beverage of your choice.
4. Chew Gum
If your snacking is linked to an oral fixation, exercise your jaw muscles with a piece of chewing gum. A minty stick of gum with cleanse your palette to cut down on hunger and the action of champing at a piece of gum will cure about the same amount of boredom a snack will, which isn’t much to begin with.
Chewing gum has also been linked to increased attention, better mood and better work performance (3). Bye-bye boredom!
If gum's not your thing, you can always just brush your teeth. It's hard to crave a snack once your mouth is minty fresh.
5. Make a New Plan
If you don’t have a plan there’s no way to blow it, but you won’t find success either. So make a plan to snack. You can have snacks! We need snacks when we’re feeling hungry between meals. They’re important to maintain your energy and glucose levels.
What we want to avoid is mindless eating.
Make a plan for what snacks you’re going to have during the day and when. Set intentions for your new routine that you won’t break and snack with purpose.
6. Plate Your Snacks
Portion size can influence intake just as much as taste (4). Don’t give yourself the chance to down an entire container of cheese puffs. Portion how much of a snack you want to savor ahead of time to avoid regretting eating six servings because you were pulling from what seemed like a bottomless pit. With a smaller quantity in front of you to see, you’re likely to eat slower and more thoughtfully.
Plus the presentation looks way better so snap an Instagram and enjoy a controlled snack.
7. Track What you Eat all Day
Tracking your food intake is the easiest way to create accountability as well as learn how your body reacts to specific foods. Just because you don’t remember eating the family sized pack of Oreos doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
Tracking can help you see what small choices snowball into and allows you to correct where you need to. People new to tracking can be shocked by the data.
Having to answer to yourself for what you eat is an excellent way to stop regrets before they happen.
8. Hit your Macros
Another reason to track your food is to make sure you’re getting the right macros. If your boredom eating coincides with legitimate physical hunger, you may not be getting enough calories or macronutrients at meal time, setting you up to go overboard during movie night.
Foods high in protein and fat, healthy fats in particular, will fill you up more than other macros and keep you satiated longer. Diets like keto and paleo are perfect ways to prioritize high protein and fat ingredients.
9. Swap Habit for Habit
We all know there are all sorts of habits we live with on a daily basis. Snacking is just one of them. If you want to stop eating so much without doing a lot of work, just find something else to keep your hands busy.
Reach for one of the healthier habits you’re hooked on like scrolling social media or the Trifecta app to help you keep the hands of the cookies.
It’s not the healthiest replacement for bad habits but it is calorie - and generally guilt - free.
10. Eat a Healthy Snack Instead
Sometimes there’s no sense in fighting it. You started boredom eating for a reason and therefore trying to stop boredom eating might be a fool’s errand. If you love enjoying a snack when you watch TV, just make sure it’s a healthy snack, something low in calories and high in micronutrients.
The same study that found limiting portion sizes of unhealthy food found that increasing the portion size of healthy snacks had positive health benefits overall (4).
See what tracking your macros while being less bored can do for your snacking habits. Download the free Trifecta app to find the latest news, workouts and advice and the easiest way to track millions of food choices.