It’s a Sunday night and nearing 9 p.m. You’ve responded to emails, zoned out on Facebook and caught up on all the episodes of the latest HBO hit.
You stare at your pile of laundry and weekly to-do list with a look of procrastination in your eyes. Mindlessly making your way toward the kitchen, you open the fridge and stare.
We’re all guilty of it. The next time you reach for those leftovers or a bag of chips, try thinking about why you are even there. Sometimes it is boredom rather than hunger pangs driving you to grab an unnecessary snack.
Eating when you’re bored can turn into an unhealthy habit that is hard to break. But it doesn’t have to be.
Try these eight ways to stay busy and stop eating out of boredom.
1. Limit screen eating
Distracted eating can lead to overeating. When you eat in front of the television—or laptop or smartphone—you miss cues signaling that you’ve eaten enough.
If you still want a snack, disconnect the two behaviors. Take a break and move to the table to eat. Instead of eating directly out of a bag or box, pour yourself a small portion and put the rest of the food away.
2. Get moving
Trade your couch for a quick walk around the block, some yoga or any activity that keeps your hands busy or makes it difficult to eat at the same time.
3. Focus on a hobby
Choose something that keeps your mind active. Spend your evening hours curled up with a new novel, cross-stitch, Sudoku book or puzzle.
4. Stay busy
Find an activity or household project that gives your hands something to do. Deep clean your bathroom or tackle that closet cleanout you’ve been putting off. Chances are if you stay focused on the task at hand, you’ll forget all about the urge to eat.
5. Keep hydrated
Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and evening hours will help keep boredom hunger cravings to a minimum. Add fresh fruit for a flavor boost or, if you’re feeling extra snacky, sip on some unsweetened herbal tea.
6. Phone a friend
Mental and physical distractions are the best way to avoid unnecessary eating. Text or call up an old friend and chat for a quick diversion that can also boost your mood.
Strong social connections have been shown to lower the risk of many health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI).
7. Wait it out
Give yourself 20 minutes to decide if hunger or boredom drives your desire for food. Most likely, your craving will fade. If you still feel hungry after waiting it out, choose a healthy alternative to what you may be craving.
8. Eat mindfully
Practice mindful eating. Slow down and appreciate the smell, taste and textures of your food and the experience of eating it, rather than the calories and carbs. Eating with intention can also help you spot food-related habits, triggers and moods to help you keep your bored eating at bay.
For more nutrition and lifestyle coaching advice, connect with a registered dietitian today.