Eating Out Of Boredom: Why Do We Do It?

Did you know that eating out of boredom is as natural as it is unhealthy? Let’s explore the nature of this behavior.
Eating out of boredom: why do we do it?

The need to eat can be described from different points of view. What we know best is biological in nature, but there are other explanations to consider. Analyzing multiple perspectives helps us understand what lies behind the habit of eating out of boredom.

It is a typical behavior of many people, but it is modifiable. It becomes essential to change it when it becomes an unhealthy or dangerous habit.

In this article we try to investigate the tendency to eat out of boredom and see what strategies to use to stop this behavior if it becomes unhealthy.

Man eating pizza in front of the television.

Why eat out of boredom?

We usually eat to allow our body to carry out all its functions. However, we are “integral beings”, this means that other important dimensions for our well-being, for example emotional and social, come into play. Food, for example, is linked to pleasure or social pressure.

“Eat out of boredom”, let’s start with the meaning of the words. Eating, of course, means ingesting food. Boredom, according to the Hoepli dictionary, is “a sense of weariness and moral impatience caused by prolonged inertia, lack of interest, the monotony of an action or a speech”.

Eating out of boredom therefore means ingesting food when our mood is tired and impatient. It therefore concerns the emotional sphere; in fact, we speak of emotional hunger when we seek in food what we cannot obtain otherwise.

Why do we do it when it is unhealthy and when it is healthy?

Nutrition is also a question of learning patterns. To push us towards food can be factors of different nature.

When we feel bored, we enter a vicious circle where feelings, thoughts and behavior come into play. Not knowing what to do is overwhelming, so we look for something to distract us. In this case, the food.

Emotional hunger and boredom

It may happen that not finding “help” in the mind, we turn to the body to find a defense mechanism to avoid discomfort. Eating out of boredom is urgent, has no limits, generates a sense of guilt or shame and is a sudden behavior.

Physiological hunger, on the other hand, is gradual, can wait and does not generate negative emotions. In fact, current research highlights the relationship between overeating and emotions.

Furthermore, we eat out of boredom, because eating is a learned behavior : we are conditioned to do so in certain circumstances.

Another reason is the attempt to unconsciously fill the inner voids with food. We then begin to associate emotions with situations we have experienced and in which we have turned to food. Later, whenever this happens, we will think about eating if we have associated food with boredom.

It becomes unhealthy when we do it excessively, which is when it becomes a habit. And this is likely to be the case because food causes the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which is responsible for motivated behavior.

In some moments we fail to react and we eat, especially when we are under stress. This can be part of an adaptive and natural process, as long as it only happens under certain circumstances.

Bored girl sitting at the table.

Strategies to avoid eating out of boredom

Eating out of boredom is a gesture that we do not always make consciously ; identifying it is already a step forward. But how can you avoid it? Let’s see some strategies.

  • Change activity. Instead of eating, if you feel bored try to do an activity that makes you feel good and that takes you out of the state of boredom. For example, exercise increases the level of endorphins and helps us feel happy. It will be different for each of us, so all that remains is to find the most suitable activity.
  • Take note of what you eat. It consists of keeping track of daily meals. This way you will know what you eat, when and where you do it. From this self-exploration you can take steps to avoid eating because you are bored.
  • Avoid buying. If you already know that you usually banish boredom with certain foods, avoid having them on hand.
  • Time. Don’t let too much time pass between meals.
  • Satiety. If you eat satiating foods when you are bored, it will be harder to overdo it.
  • Management of emotions. It consists in recognizing our emotions, exploring them and not letting anyone become the protagonist. This way we prevent emotional hunger. To do this, self-knowledge and will are required.

To manage these situations we can ask for professional help, for example, the nutritionist, the doctor or the psychologist. The important thing is to look for strategies that lead us back to healthy habits.

In conclusion…

Eating out of boredom responds to several causes: the need to fill a void, defense mechanism, learned behavior, the need to get out of a vicious circle, satisfaction generated by the release of neurotransmitters, etc.

It is important to understand when it becomes a compulsive gesture in order to be able to choose a path in the direction of our well-being.

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