Do you ever find yourself wondering what to do next … and wandering into the kitchen? Do you ever end up snacking because you’re bored? The habit of “boredom eating” is one which many of us pick up in childhood (a survey in the UK a few years ago found that almost half of adolescents admit to eating when bored, and it can be a very hard habit hard to break.
As you probably know, though, boredom eating can ruin your diet. Here’s how to tackle it:
1. Recognise The Real Problem (Boredom)
This might sound a bit obvious, but the first step is to recognize what the real problem is: your boredom. You might be bored because you’re hanging around waiting for something (perhaps your partner isn’t home from work yet, or you’re waiting until it’s time to leave the house for an appointment).
Or you might be bored because your job or daily routine is unfulfilled. Many of us fall into the trap of using food as a reward – “I’ll send all these emails out, then I’ll have a slice of cake”, or “I’ll hoover the whole house, then I’ll treat myself to some cookies.”
Don’t use food to solve a problem that isn’t hunger. Once you’ve eaten that cake or those cookies, you won’t be less bored. Look for real solutions: can you delegate at work, or get the rest of the family to help out more with the chores at home?
2. Go For A Walk, Cycle Ride or Jog
If you’re bored because you have “nothing to do”, a great solution is to get some exercise! Boredom often comes along with a lethargic feeling – when you just want to slump on the sofa and eat potato chips – but picking yourself up and going outside will get you into a much better state of mind.
Easy forms of activity include a walk, or if you’re feeling more energetic, a cycle ride or jog. Why not rope someone else in to join you? If the weather really isn’t good enough to get outside, try a workout DVD at home – or just get stuck into the housework (it burns calories too!)
3. Prepare and Freeze Healthy Meals
When you have time on your hands – perhaps on a slow weekend afternoon – use some of it to get ahead with preparing food for the following week. Make up a big batch of low-fat chilli, bolognaise, curry, pasta sauce or any of your favorites, and freeze it in individual portions. You’ll have instant, healthy, cheap “ready meals” for the following few days.
You might also want to spend time preparing a big fruit salad (this will keep for several days in the fridge), or chopping up raw veggies for crudities (they keep well if you pop them in a small box full of cold water in the fridge).
4. Eat Fresh Fruit or Salad
If you really feel peckish, don’t turn to quick-fix snacks like candy bars and chips. Have some fresh fruit instead, or a big garden salad. Boredom is a great excuse to spend time putting together a nice, healthy snack that would otherwise be “too much effort”.
This is also a good way to boost your fruit and vegetable intake. Even if you’re getting five portions a day, remember that’s a recommended minimum. You can – and should – aim higher!
5. Keep A Food Diary Or Journal
Tracking what you eat can really help to resist the urge to munch out of boredom; if you know you’ll have to write it down, you’re more likely to be able to ignore the siren call of the fridge! You might want to keep a journal as well – write about the times when you’re most tempted to eat unhealthily, or record how you were feeling when you ate each meal and snack.
Writing has the other advantage, of course, of keeping your hands busy – making it hard to “accidentally” reach for a cookie…
Do you ever eat out of boredom? What do you do to avoid this habit – do you have any great tips to share with us?