Eating when bored – why do we do it?
Eating when bored is so common!
I would dare to say most of us have done this at some point, or even do it fairly frequently. Eating with bored is actually a type of emotional eating. (Yep! Bored is actually an emotion.)
As a reformed emotional eater, I have a big interest in emotional eating behavior. And I was surprised to learn that eating when bored is actually not the most common emotional eating behavior.
I surveyed over 300 people about their emotional eating behaviors.
Eating when bored actually came in number three. The most common behavior? Using food to celebrate! I’ve definitely used a celebration as a reason to eat when I’m not hungry. But my number one emotional eating behavior was using food to soothe myself when I was stressed or anxious.
Regardless of the emotion behind emotional eating, the root cause and resulting problem are the same. If you’re eating for any reason other than hunger, it’s going be darn near impossible to lose weight.
Why do we eat to deal with emotions?
Eating when bored, or stressed, or sad, is actually a way of dealing with our emotions. This is much more intuitive when it comes to sad emotions. But we do this in response to happy emotions as well. (Ever had an overwhelming urge to go out for ice cream or a drink when something great happens? Yep- that’s emotional eating).
So why does this happen? Emotions can be fairly intense, and often uncomfortable. And it’s not like we all take a class in elementary school on how to deal with our emotions (though it would be truly awesome if we could!) Instead, we mimic what we see. And for many of us that means eating in response to an intense emotion.
Eating just delays the inevitable.
Eating distracts us from what we’re feeling. But the underlying emotion is still there. We’re just avoiding it. The best way to attack things is head-on: learn to experience the underlying emotion without eating.
What does this actually look like? First off it means not avoiding the emotion. Eating is obviously one way we avoid feeling our emotions, but there are others:
- drinking alcohol
- going for a run (okay- this was never my coping mechanism. But I understand some people do this!)
First figure out what the underlying emotion is.
What does this look like in real life? It simply means allowing yourself to experience whatever it is you’re feeling. Put a label on it- are you happy, sad, bored? Once you’ve got a good idea of what’s going on in your brain you’ll actually feel much less pressure to eat. It’s amazing how completely unaware we are of what we’re thinking and feeling from moment to moment. Reaching for food can become such a habit, you don’t even realize there’s an underlying emotion triggering the habit. Simply becoming aware of the underlying thoughts will do a lot to remove the urge to eat.
Then deal with the emotion directly.
How can you avoid eating when bored? Treat the underlying symptom- the boredom. Find something else to keep you busy and occupy your time. What if the underlying emotion is something else? Try journaling for a bit- writing down your thoughts can help you get the bottom of why you’re feeling that way. (Check out this podcast episode if you want to learn more about where emotions originate from and how you can change them.
The fact that you’re reading this article gives you a huge advantage. The first step to breaking the habit of eating when bored (or any other emotional eating) is to realize you’re doing it. Want some more help with eating when bored? Take my emotional eating quiz and you’ll have a chance to join my free 5 day emotional eating challenge!
[fyrebox gid=”rDOemKoKZ” gt=”8″ oid=”aDV28A8LR” /]