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I don’t eat when I’m hungry, I eat when I’m bored… a common occurrence. And it can have a few reasons - to fill time, or to find comfort. It may be that Intuitive Eating can offer an approach to help - tuning in with hunger and fullness as well as noticing emotions and dealing with them with kindness.
This article delves into the concept of intuitive eating and how it can be a solution for those who find themselves eating out of boredom.
As always we’re not thinking in absolutes - eating when bored isn’t “bad” or something to be ashamed of. It may just be that eating when bored means distracted eating, while not in tune with your body. And we want to listen to those cues when embarking on an Intuitive Eating journey. So remove any guilt and shame - they don’t serve you.
Some questions to ask if you find you’re eating when bored:
Are you eating enough? - it may be that you’re under-fuelling yourself resulting in brain fog, difficulty concentrating etc. which you may think of as boredom and so snack often. Which you think is boredom eating but is actually your body wanting some more food.
Action: Try increasing your intake at meal times, or add in a small meal at times when you often find you ‘boredom eat’. Notice if feelings of hunger / fullness change and if you experience boredom eating less regularly.
Are you eating food that satisfies you? - If a meal isn’t satisfying then it may be that you’re going to seek out what will satisfy you. Have you ever really fancied a certain meal, then after having something else still find yourself hungry or wanting something. That feeling might persist and end up with ‘boredom eating’.
Action: Focus on building satisfying meals, think about what you want to eat and use the three S’s of Satisfaction - slow, senses and savour to try and enjoy meals as much as possible.
Is it now part of your routine? - we’re all creatures of habit in the end. And if you find everytime you sit down to work at home, or everyday at 2pm or something similar then it may be that you’ve made it part of your routine. You ‘boredom eat’ at 2pm everyday, so around 2pm your body starts to expect these things.
Action: Notice patterns in your eating, whether you write it down or make a mental note. If you find this routine setting in then try and break the chain - if it’s sitting at your desk try and work from somewhere else. If it’s sitting in front of the television, maybe try and go for a walk or do another activity.
Are you experiencing an increase in stress? - exam time, busy time at work, solo parenting etc. all examples of scenarios that can cause a spike in stress, and therefore boredom eating - as it is emotional eating after all.
Action: take stock of your tools to combat stress, whether it’s movement to de-stress, taking a break, chatting with a friend etc.
Some tools to help combat boredom eating:
Mindful eating: pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and sensations when eating. If you’re distracted you may experience boredom eating more, as you won’t notice you’re doing it and being mindful may help prevent boredom.
Action: the next time you sit down to eat notice if you reach for your phone, watch TV or just spend the whole time thinking about other things. Take a few deep breaths before eating and notice the texture, taste, flavours, spice level etc. of the food you’re eating.
Distracting yourself - seems the opposite to the above but bear with me. If you find yourself grazing while bored it may be that distracting yourself with other activities will help break the routine. Do not use it to distract yourself from genuine hunger cues but rather habitual patterns.
Action: Make a list of things you enjoy doing that you can do when bored - watching a favourite show, going for a walk,baking, chatting with a friend, reading, joyful movement etc.
Listen to your hunger and fullness cues - again finding out if it is actual hunger or just a pattern that’s become routine.
Action: use a hunger and fullness scale, or just take a note as you tune into sensations of hunger and fullness.
Socialise - whether as a cure to the boredom, the emotions causing such emotional eating or for support. Reaching out to a friend has a whole range of benefits,
Action: make a list of friends you can chat to when struggling with emotional eating, or a support group you know you can tap into.
Practice Intuitive Eating - if you don’t already then start working on Intuitive Eating. The framework allows you to become in tune with the body and whether you are hungry or there is another cause - without judgement - as well as honouring cravings.
Action: read up on Intuitive Eating, focus on understanding the principles and working your way through them. I have loads on my Instagram if you’re curious.
Ultimately if you have the best intentions, but end up eating when bored, be patient with yourself. It happens, and feeling guilt will only start a shame cycle.
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