Boredom eating is one of those problem eating issues I think I hear from the people I train and counsel the most. Why? What is behind it and how can we put up a descent fight against it?
We all know the scenario. It’s 3pm at work, close to knock off time but not quite there yet and the platter of cakes that the HR department keeps bringing in is calling out to you, loudly! There is a fight going on in your head “don’t do it, you’ll regret it!” vs “come on, just one”. You look back at the clock and only 20 minutes has gone by. Boom! Before you can say “blueberry muffin” one of those little baked balls of regret has slipped past the goalkeeper.
What about this one. You’re at home and you have to get that load of washing on and empty the dishwasher and repack from the build up from the past few days. You know you need to do it cause you’re going out soon. Then out of nowhere your head is in the fridge or in the pantry looking for something pleasurable to snack on. Next thing you know your fingers are covered in salt and vinegar potato chip crumbs.
These examples are classic boredom eating and are generally pointless. It almost always happens when we’re not even in physiological need of food. There’s usually something much more useful we could be getting on with, and after the first couple of bites it’s not even that satisfying as we weren’t really hungry in the first place.
Now a little biochemistry. This is dopamine (above) and this little guy is a neurotransmitter. It has a couple of jobs around the body but it is best known for it’s job in motivation in the brains reward center in base (oldest) part of the brain. Basically it is the area that makes us feel good for doing whatever we are doing.
Now it’s hypothesised that when we’re in a malaise and are feeling uninspired, so too are our dopamine neurons. When we boredom-eat what we’re really doing is trying to wake up that reward center so we can feel excited again.
So here are my 3 little tricks to keep the boredom eating at bay.
- The first strategy, which is the easiest, is to make sure you are properly hydrated each day. I don’t think I need to bang on too much about the importance in drinking enough water. Just make sure you get in 2L per day at a minimum. More if you remember.
- The second is if you are going to give into the devil in your ear, make a deal. Say “ok but the food we are going to eat is either a high protein food or a high fibre food”. Protein and fibre are both associated with satiation and fullness. High protein foods are the best foods for decreasing ghrelin (a hormone produced in the stomach that is released when the stomach is emptying signaling that you need to eat). If you are a counter then of 1.6gP/kg body weight is your minimum. Fibre is simply physically filling. Try drinking the juice of 6 oranges, easy right! Now try and eat 6 oranges, you’ll be done after about 2 simply because of the fibre. If you are going to snack, snack on protein and fibre and minimise the processed carbohydrates.
- Finally if you are feeling bored and flat, find something that brings the happy-hormones in your brain up a little. For my I use stand-up comedy. I jump on Youtube for a few minutes (which I monitor otherwise 1 hour later I’m deep down a Youtube rabbit hole). Now you can do anything you like here. Go for a walk, read a book for a few pages if that is your thing. It doesn’t matter really, just wake your brain up and give it a little spike of positivity.
One last thing, if you haven’t learnt how to meditate and what it means to have a meditation practice then I encourage you to do that too. Learning ow to watch yourself do things from a 3rd person perspective is very empowering and in time you kind of catch yourself doing this kind of shit.
Peace and love ✌️