Do you eat because you're bored?
The kind of bored where you have lots to do but don’t want to do it?
Or that kind of boredom that feels like something is missing in your life?
I recently asked my group which emotions caused them to want to eat when they weren’t hungry.
Two out of three responses were BOREDOM.
Although psychologists and philosophers have come up with all kinds of causes for boredom, I’m concerned here with boredom that has you running to the kitchen for something “interesting” – FOOD!
There are three main types of boredom that cause people to eat:
- When you feel like you have nothing to do
- When you have something you must do but don’t want to do it right now
- When you feel like something is missing in your life.
This response summed up the second type well:
- Sometimes when I am working on something that I don't really want to be doing… usually because I am overwhelmed and don't know where to start… I find myself in the pantry or fridge. Probably trying to avoid the uncomfortable feeling. The struggle is real!
As we have more and more stimulation, we’re more inclined to be bored. We want constant stimulation. When we set the bar that high, we’re bound to feel bored more easily.
Tune in below and learn how to manage that boredom so you don’t eat to avoid feeling it!
If you’re ready to stop all emotional eating, check out my free video masterclass, Kick the Emotional Eating Habit for Good and Lose the Weight at the link below.
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Do you eat because you're bored? I'm talking about the kind of bored where you have lots to do, but you don't want to do it, or that kind of boredom that feels like something's missing in your life. Stay tuned and learn how to manage that boredom. So you don't eat to avoid feeling it.
You know, I have this fantastic Facebook group called Ditch the Diet Tribe. If you're not a member yet, you definitely should request to join if you're on Facebook. It's free. I recently asked the members which emotions caused them to want to eat when they weren't hungry. And two out of three responses replied, "boredom." So it seemed like a good time to revisit this topic which I initially discussed in Episode 112.
I'm looking at boredom a little differently now too. I've thought about it. And I've learned some new things. And I want to share them with you in an effort to help you avoid eating when you feel it, and to approach boredom in a more productive way. Although psychologists and philosophers have come up with all kinds of causes for boredom, I'm concerned here with boredom that has you running to the kitchen for something interesting--food! So regarding the kinds of boredom that would cause people to eat, there are three main kinds.
1. When you feel like you have nothing to do
2. When you have something you must do, but you don't want to do it right now.
3. When you feel like something is missing from your life. In fact, in the responses from my group from Ditch the Diet Tribe, some people specifically talked about the second and third more difficult types of boredom. And this response, I think, summed up number two, which I'm going to call type two,
"Well, sometimes when I'm working on something that I really don't want to be doing, usually because I'm overwhelmed, and I don't know where to start, I find myself in the pantry or fridge, probably trying to avoid the uncomfortable feeling. The struggle is real!"
And someone else had this interesting observation on the third type: Boredom really means emptiness, feeling empty in your life, feeling empty of love, companionship, things that make you feel fulfilled and happy.
Given how much stimulation we have surrounding us with the internet and everything, where one could spend an eternity watching YouTube videos or Tik Tok, or scrolling through Instagram, clearly, this type of entertainment is not a substitute for the second and third types of boredom. In other words, dealing with boredom isn't as simple as I've previously thought. In fact, in my earlier podcast episode, I mentioned how I don't think I've been bored for at least 10 years. But I was referring to type one boredom, which is when you feel like you don't have anything to do. I deal with that in Episode 112, so if you haven't listened to that yet, and that's the kind of boredom you deal with, listen to that episode.
As we have more and more stimulation, we're more inclined to be bored. I mean, think about that. If you remember the pre-smartphone days, when you would go to the doctor's office, and you'd have to wait 20 or 30 minutes for your appointment, and you pass the time by relaxing and casually flipping through People magazine or something like that. Well nowadays, we have these phones with a zillion things to distract us. So the minute we sit down in the waiting room, we pull out our phones and check our email or Facebook or Instagram or whatever. We want constant stimulation. And when we set the bar that high, we're bound to feel bored more easily. And the truth is, even though I said I hadn't been bored in 10 years, I definitely know all too well, what type two boredom feels like. To remind you, that's the one when you've got a lot to do, but it isn't something that you find interesting, or you'd rather be doing something different at the moment. In fact, eating from type two boredom was what caused me to gain all that weight when I was practicing law.
There's actually a study that was done in 2015, called, Eaten Up by Boredom-Consuming Food to Escape Awareness of the Bored Self. And the World Health Organization, which has said that we are in the midst of an epidemic of obesity, has implicated boredom as one of the main causes.
I like the way the authors of a new book, which is entitled, Out of My Skull, the Psychology of Boredom. And you can tell I took a little bit of that title and put it in this episode! They describe these types of boredom as it's a cognitive state that has something in common with that tip of the tongue syndrome. You know, that sensation that something's missing, though, we can't exactly say what. Does that resonate with you? If you're an emotional eater, then it stands to reason that you feel like you need something, and you're not sure what it is. And so why not reach for that old faithful cure-all, right? Food. But I think types two and three boredom are different from that. There are discrete emotions that feel like dissatisfaction, or restlessness or not being challenged. And it can feel like we don't have a purpose, or we want to engage in something purposeful. But we're either not sure what that would be, or we can't do it right now.
When you want to do something that gives you a sense of meaning, but you can't, you're more likely to focus on avoiding your situation. And hence, there's that big bag of chips in the kitchen with your name on it. So what can you do about it, though? You know, that boredom eating is a very slippery slope, it's a no-win situation. If you don't find a better way to manage boredom, you'll just keep eating and gaining weight, right?
Well, managing type two and three, boredom is pretty much like managing everything else in life. It's a matter of managing your thinking about it, and seeing what you can learn from it. How can this feeling of boredom actually work to make your life better over the long term?
Be curious about your experience of boredom. Dorothy Parker said that curiosity is the cure for boredom. Well, what thoughts are you having about the situation that you think is boring? Identify why you're feeling bored. What can you think instead, that would make you feel better? It's like a pain signal that alerts you to the need to do something engaging to relieve it. And if you can't do that right now, you can make a plan to do it.
So explore why you feel bored. Is it simply that you've got a bunch of work or chores, and you'd rather be walking on the beach? Well, if that's the case, I'd use a mantra to steer me through without eating. Something like, "Eating isn't going to help me get this done. It'll just make me gain weight". I used that mantra over and over to break my work stress eating when I was practicing law. And I would just notice the urge when it came, and I would let it go. I didn't push back against it, or white knuckle it. I knew my brain was giving me this idea and it wasn't useful. So every time the thought came to eat to entertain myself, I let it go. And the reason that my brain kept telling me to do that was because that's what I'd always done. That's what my brain knew. So I had to teach it something different and that takes repetition. And then after a few weeks or a month, those thoughts were gone. You know, an ignored guest soon leaves, right? And it wasn't even that my work was boring. I mean, I really enjoy my work, but sometimes especially late in the afternoon, it's a grind to keep going.
If that's what's going on with you, try a mantra. Try letting the urge just be there. Just notice it and then toss it off like a leaf that's landed on your shoulder. Expect some discomfort when you don't give into it. And know that it's less discomfort than gaining more weight. Know that every time you let the urge go and you don't act on it, the next time, it's just going to be easier and get easier and easier. And eventually, you won't get those urges anymore, because you'll have broken this habit.
Maybe what's going on is that you actually don't like your job. So what can you do about that? Can you talk to your supervisor about ways to make it better? Or can you make a plan to change jobs? Can you plan to go to school or get training, so you'll be qualified to do something you'd like more? Use your boredom, to inspire you to make positive changes in your life.
Now, this approach also works when you're feeling bored because of other things in your life that aren't ideal. So really explore why you're feeling bored. What can you do to change that? Can you get involved with a group where you'll make new friends or volunteer for a worthy cause that will give you a sense of value and accomplishment? Sign up for a class with the local university or adult education? Think about what would fill this hole in your life that's causing this feeling of boredom, and look at it as a gift that's helping you make your life more meaningful and enjoyable.
Now, if you have a bunch of tasks to accomplish that you find boring, and you can't get motivated to tackle them, how about applying the Pomodoro method to those? I've talked about that in the past, it's setting a timer for 25 or 30 minutes and just doing it for that long. So maybe you hate decluttering or raking leaves. But you can do it for 25 or 30 minutes, right? Or even just 15. So set a timer, and do it for that long. And then take a little break and do something you enjoy before resuming that chore.
So to sum up, here's how to deal with type two and three boredom.
1. Change your perspective about your boredom. Look at your boredom as a gift that's trying to tell you something. What can you learn from it? What in your life needs to be changed because of it? Really think about what you need. What can you do to give your life more meaning? Use your boredom to inspire you to make positive changes in your life.
2. Use a mantra to avoid eating when you aren't hungry. If you have a lot of work or chores to do and would rather not, use a mantra to steer through without eating. Try something like "eating isn't going to help me get this done. It'll just make me gain weight" or or something, whatever resonates with you.
3. Use the Pomodoro method. Attack tasks you've been avoiding by using the Pomodoro method of setting a timer for 15 to 30 minutes, and getting it done in small chunks.
4. Take a break. This can actually help with type two boredom. Just give yourself a few minutes to do something you really enjoy. It's just reset. It can help your mood and motivate you to do what you need to do.
Like all of our other emotions, boredom is here to give you a message and teach you something about yourself. I hope this helps you understand yours better and to stop eating in response to it.
If you want to stop eating in response to all kinds of emotions, and you haven't already checked out my free video masterclass, Kick the Emotional Eating Habit for Good, then go do that, it's on my website. You can sign up under free resources, and listen to it at your convenience and kick that emotional eating habit.
So thanks so much for listening. Take good care of yourself. Stay healthy, and I'll see you next time.
Thanks so much for listening. Don't forget to subscribe for regular motivation and inspiration and head over to my website, Shari Broder.com, to grab the free resources I've created to help you practice what you're learning on the podcast. I really appreciate your help spreading the word by leaving a review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. See you next time.
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This is very true. I have found myself doing this and recognizing what it is. Not hunger, boredom. Great tips, Shari.