Feeling Bored? Here Are 10 Things to Do Instead of Eat

Here’s what to do when you’re bored that’s not eating.

Man engaging in boredom eating while at work.

Snacking mindlessly is a habit that many people have, and it can contribute to many physical and mental health struggles. Eating to combat boredom can cause you to overeat and feel bloated, increase your weight gain, and even cause your self-esteem to drop.

Why you may be eating when you’re bored

According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, the drive behind boredom eating can be twofold:

  • Eating can provide a positive reward or reinforcement that results in a spike in dopamine levels. When you’re bored, your dopamine levels drop, and a way to increase these levels is to eat.
  • Munching on a snack can take the mind off the boredom or the negative feelings being experienced because you’re keeping busy with a task—even though it’s not a healthy one.

Related: Here's How to Create a Healthy Diet

Why it’s important to stop

Eating when you’re bored can quickly become an unhealthy habit that can impact your overall health. One of the most common outcomes is obesity, which is a rapidly growing problem.

In the United States, 36.5% of adults are obese and other nearly 33% of adults are overweight. Obesity and excess weight can cause joint and mobility problems, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other health concerns.

Additionally, if you’re eating when you’re bored, there’s a high chance you aren’t in tune with your body’s hunger cues. In fact, you may not even be hungry.

Understanding when you’re hungry is the first step in combatting boredom eating. There are several signs to keep a lookout for to learn whether you are actually hungry:

  • You’ll get hungrier as time goes on. Hunger gradually builds over time and isn’t as quickly remedied.
  • Your stomach will growl as your body is signaling that you’re hungry.
  • Your feeling of hunger won’t pass. For example, drinking a glass of water won’t satisfy your craving for food.

Related: Clever Ways to Trick Your Body into Feeling Full

How to stop eating when bored

After identifying that you’re not truly hungry and just need something to do, you can try one of these ten ideas to hopefully fight the urge to eat:

  1. Practice mindful eating: Focus on the food you’re eating and really enjoy it by slowing down and eating more mindfully.
  2. Take a sip: Instead of eating, pour yourself a glass of water and hydrate. Add a few slices of lemon, a squirt of lime juice, or a couple of cucumber slices to add some flavor.
  3. Plan out your meals and snacks: By planning ahead, you can think about what you’ll eat throughout the day and when you’ll eat it. Snacking can certainly be part of a balanced diet, as long as you’re only snacking when you feel hungry and choosing nutritious options.
  4. Grab a piece of gum: Chewing gum can serve as a distraction when you’re feeling bored, so grab a piece of your favorite flavor and chew away.
  5. Find a new hobby: If you find that you’re bored often, look for hobbies that can keep your mind and hands busy. Knitting, reading, and shooting hoops can take some of your time and help you feel like you’re accomplishing something.
  6. Identify your triggers: Certain behaviors and habits may be linked to your boredom snacking habit. If you mindlessly munch during your breaks at work, you could take a walk to clear your mind.
  7. Call or meet up with a friend: Spending time with others can get you out of a boredom slump and boost your mood. If you can’t be together in person, give your friend a call to chat.
  8. Reorganize your living space: If you’re really bored, any activity will probably appeal to you, so put yourself to work and reorganize your living space. Clear out old clothes to donate or toss, wash and replace your sheets, and de-junk your dresser to create a more appealing space.
  9. Give your time: When you have extra time to spare during the week, find an organization that could use your help. Volunteering can help you feel good about yourself while also providing a service that can benefit someone else.
  10. Indulge in some self-care: Self-care can promote relaxation and reduce stress, so find ways to care for yourself. Soak in the bathtub, give yourself a nourishing face mask, or pick up a bouquet of your favorite flowers to brighten up your home.

Boredom doesn’t have to impact your health goals. By eating more mindfully and identifying when you’re more likely to eat out of boredom, you can find ways to adjust your habits and eat only when your body truly needs fuel.

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