Emotional Eating: Beware of the Blahs

Most of us associate being bored with having nothing to do. The truth is, boredom — that blah feeling we get when we lack stimulation — can strike on even your busiest day. I often find myself overloaded with errands, obligations, and chores. I want to do it all, but it’s just so… tedious. When I do manage to slog through my to-do list, I often crave the pleasant distraction of a snack — the satisfying crunch of a cookie, or the chewy sweetness of dried fruit. In most cases, I am able to resist it (I am a health coach, after all), but sometimes even I give in.

Maybe you can relate to this kind of busy-boredom eating, or maybe you’re more likely to munch mindlessly when your schedule is empty. Either way, snacking to beat the blahs can lead to excess pounds that put your health at risk. Boredom-eating is really just another form of emotional eating, and research shows that any kind of emotional eating is a major obstacle for people who are trying to lose weight or keep weight off.

Like so many things, the best defense against boredom eating is a good offense: anticipate the onset of boredom and develop a strategy for responding to it a healthy way. A solid place to begin is to choose a few boredom-crushing activities that do not involve food and (this is crucial) that you truly enjoy. Then start making a habit of engaging in those activities as soon as you feel boredom setting in.

Omada participants have listed the following activities as their go-to ways of battling boredom. Some may seem obvious, but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful! The next time you get the urge to eat because you’re feeling meh try one of these methods; you might be surprised how quickly your desire to eat disappears.

1. Call someone you love talking to. – You’re less inclined to mindlessly eat when your mouth is busy talking, and chatting with someone who is important to you will keep you entertained as you finish mindless tasks like loading the dishwasher or putting away laundry.

2. Read (or listen to) a book instead of staring at a screen.Too often when we’re bored, we flip through channels on the TV or surf the internet for nothing special, both activities that barely capture our attention. Eager for more stimulation, we may grab a snack to occupy our senses. A gripping page-turner, on the other hand, will engage your whole mind, eliminating the need to munch. If you haven’t read a great book in your favorite genre recently, start one again now.

3. Get crafty. – Before you write this one off as not your thing, have you really considered all of the options available? For people who are driven to eat during their downtime, activities that keep your hands occupied can be a brilliant solution. Any kind of art or craft, from drawing to carpentry is a great distraction that can yield impressive results!

4. Move mindfully. – Take a brisk walk outside, go on a bike ride, or do a strengthening exercise like yoga, pilates, or a few resistance band moves. Activities like these engage your brain and body because they require you to focus and/or be aware of your surroundings.

5. Learn something. – Pick a skill or hobby that you can nurture for a few minutes here, a few minutes there, throughout your day: learning a language (keep flashcards on your phone or in your bag), knitting (it’s more popular than you might think!), or how about playing music (there are often hand exercises you can do when you don’t have your instrument).

6. Put pen to paper. – This doesn’t have to involve journaling or creative writing — though both are wonderful if you enjoy them. Grabbing a notebook and pen when you’re bored will prompt you to make useful lists, or write down your goals, break them down into small steps, and brainstorm solutions to challenges that are likely to come up.

7. Help a cause you believe in. – Whether it’s making phone calls, sending emails, or going door-to-door for a cause, engaging volunteer work is a rewarding, fulfilling diversion.

8. Practice meditation. – There’s no beating meditation when it comes to developing your ability to accept your feelings and let fleeting urges — including the urge to snack — pass without acting on them. It can be challenging for people to start meditating. If you’re interested, try this easy, beginner’s guide.