Many people wonder how to stop craving food when boredom strikes. You may find yourself snacking while bored, or worry that boredom increases your tendency to overeat. Some even wonder whether ‘boredom eating’ is a type of disorder, or fear that lack of distraction can increase vulnerability to weight gain. Some individuals Google, ‘Am I hungry or bored?’ – the implication being that ‘boredom hunger’ is different from hunger experienced at other times.
How to stop eating when bored? The key to answering this question is to realise that boredom does not cause overeating. By perpetuating the notion that boredom plays a role in overeating, you remain distracted and hindered from addressing the real culprit, which is incredibly advantageous to food manufacturers, and incredibly disadvantageous to you.
Instead of wondering what to do instead of eating when bored, a far more useful question to ask is: why do I eat when I’m bored? In fact, why does overeating occur at all?
Only once the root cause of overeating is understood can this behavior permanently cease.
Boredom ensures that an excessive hunger can no longer hide
On this website and within my upcoming book, I explain how and why overeating is caused by addiction to deceptive foods. Consuming these misleading items causes appetite to rise, and introduces a series of misperceptions about the situation, and, as a consequence, food cravings increase.
Of course people do eat while bored, but this is because, while bored, it is harder to distract oneself from an elevated appetite. Fixing boredom, without curing the increased appetite, is a temporary solution at best. It delays rather than remedies the problem. On the other hand, if an elevated appetite is reset to normal, whether you are bored or not becomes irrelevant.
It is essential to see this clearly, because if you believe that an uneventful life is part of your problem, the situation may feel enormous or insurmountable. You may feel as though you have two fundamental issues to address (or perhaps multiple issues, such as emotional eating, stress eating, or self-sabotage). On the other hand, if you can see that the problem is only deceptive food, and that nothing else is wrong, you can address the correct issue swiftly and accurately, with laser focus. Furthermore, once the correct understanding of deceptive food is acquired, and your health and weight normalize, prompting a boost in confidence and self-esteem, your life naturally becomes a lot less boring of its own accord. In other words, although reducing boredom cannot end overeating, fixing overeating can dramatically reduce boredom.
Does boredom make you want to eat?
Let’s now set out the arguments for and against boredom playing a role, beginning with the reasons why boredom might really be to blame.
Reasons why boredom may cause overeating:
- One study found that participants were more likely to overeat in a bored state than in any other.
- Another study gave participants a boring and an interesting task, along with snacks. Both obese and normal-weight participants consumed more during the boring activity.
- You probably have personal experience of overeating while bored, and eating while bored really does seem to offer some relief (but not relief of the boredom).
[Please suggest more items for this list in the comments below]
Why boredom is NOT the problem:
- Many people have busy, hectic lives, yet continue to overeat. In fact, some people find eating due to boredom to be a ludicrous proposition, noting that they have rich and busy lives, yet still managed to frequently overeat. Some of these people worry instead that overeating may be caused by the stress of a busy life. In other words, while some fear that overeating is caused by being too busy, others fear they are not busy enough. This means two completely opposite states are being blamed for the same problem.
- Some experts believe it is optimal to be present and focused while eating, so as not to be distracted (advocates of this theory recommend avoiding television while eating etc). According to this theory, eating during periods of boredom should be advantageous, because you can focus full attention upon your food.
- There are many other substances you do not over-consume despite being bored. Why not? Consider an addictive substance that you have no interest in taking. For example, if you had nothing to do tonight, would you contemplate snorting heroin as an activity to fill the boredom? (If you would, select an addictive substance that you have no interest in using). The point here is that boredom alone is not enough to make you do something that you don’t want to do. In fact there are plenty of activities that you would never do, no matter how bored you became. So why opt to overeat, despite knowing that the behavior is harming you? At the very least, why don’t you select a less damaging activity, such as drinking water? After all, drinking water would achieve the same kind of hand-to-mouth action as eating. There are lots of things you could do, while bored, but for some reason you choose eating. Why is that? Could it be that the eating is not really about the boredom at all?
- Overeating doesn’t eliminate boredom. Eating does achieve something. It temporarily reduces the aggravation of hunger cravings. But what it doesn’t do – ever – is fix boredom. Eating is a relatively dull activity, which is why most people have meals with others, watch TV, surf the internet, or read while eating. Hardly anyone sits in a room by themselves, doing nothing but eating. If you do, you quickly realise how uninteresting eating usually is.
- In fact, overeating rapidly makes your life boring. The more ashamed of your appearance you get, the more you withdraw from society, decline social events, and stop partaking in activities. Furthermore, because ingesting large volumes of food is not often suitable for public display, you are more likely to eat alone, which is itself boring. Do you know what else is boring? Never going out with friends because you think you’re too fat. Wasting hour upon hour exercising, trying to burn off calories that you consumed in a feeding frenzy. Not doing physical activities with your kids, because you’re unfit and ashamed. How many years have you lost to this problem? How much time wasted researching the solution? Is it not more plausible that your real boredom problem is not cured by overeating, but caused by it?
As an ex-chain smoker I can assure you that there are no more boring activities in life than lighting up one filthy cigarette after another, day in day out, year in year out.– Allen Carr, The Easy Way to Stop Smoking
I need your help. 😊
I am hoping to harvest the power of the internet, and the collective hive mind to both strengthen the argument that boredom plays a role in overeating, and to collate the best arguments against this.
I would love you to add comments below, offering any additional ideas or arguments you have related to boredom eating (either side of the argument). If you are not convinced that the arguments presented here, please say why. Alternatively, if you have any other good reasons why boredom is not an important factor, please share these too!
The more thorough each side of the argument is, the more people will be able to determine what is really right and wrong.
If you can already see that boredom is not blame, your thoughts will help numerous others break free. All comments (for or against) help make sure the logic is as thorough and convincing as possible. After all, the best way to counter arguments effectively, is to hear them first.
I will periodically summarise responses shared within comments and add them to the bullet pointed list in the article above. Thank you so much for any input shared! 😊
My upcoming book, Foods that Lie, outlines exactly how and why deceptive foods cause addiction: escalating hunger and reducing flavor sensitivity. To be alerted when this book is published, please make sure you have subscribed to the mailing list below.