Why We Eat When Bored: And How to Stop it From Sabotaging You
In all the hundreds of students and clients I’ve had, I’ve noticed there’s one particular situation that sabotages people.
In fact, it’s SO common in one situation that I call it the “doctor’s office effect,” and here’s how it works.
Have you ever noticed when you sit in line at the DMV, the doctor’s office, or any other spot where you have to wait, people are SO UNCOMFORTABLE with having nothing to do?
Almost everyone starts to fidget in some way – usually with their phone – but it’s almost always something.
As you’ll soon see, this is in fact the same trigger for why most of us find ourselves bored eating.
The Real Reason We Eat When Bored
Cravings, The Doctor’s Office, and Weight Gain – Oh My!
As I was waiting in the doctor’s office a few weeks back, I observed just how many people fidget.
There was a young girl next to me who was texting her friends, going on Facebook and Instagram, and her mother was keeping herself busy by snacking on some crackers and nervously looking around the room.
An elderly man next to me found himself reading a book while fidgeting with his pant leg, and another kid brought in a toy to play with.
Most of the other parents in the room were on their phones playing around.
Others were biting their nails or just had nervous twitches… but in general, the whole room seemed to be filled with an almost low level of anxiety and ADD.
It was like people physically could not sit still.
Now here’s where it gets good…
I’ve noticed that most of us tend to bored eat at some point or another in our lives (or during the day) – which is the exact same craving for distraction.
In fact, besides emotional eating, eating for stimulation – something to do – is the most common cause of snacking on the wrong stuff compulsively.
Right after work?
Quick snack after dinner?
It’s funny because we also see this compulsiveness in teenage girls addicted to texting, or smokers that just need to get out and go for a smoke break or else they get anxious.
The Craving for “Something to Do” Goes Away As Soon As You Do This
You might be thinking, “Yup…I’m definitely one of those bored eaters. But that doesn’t help me – I kinda know it, I just don’t know how to regain control over it.”
For the majority of people, awareness of it is enough alone to stop the behavior.
Think of it like this: If you’re constantly getting into an argument with your spouse, and you don’t know what’s causing it, it’s very hard to stop the argument if you don’t know why the same one keeps happening.
But if you have the awareness, for example, that you’re always arguing because you like things done YOUR way, and that your partner is trying to help but doesn’t know the way you like things done, that leads to an epiphany.
“Oh. I’m being a control freak here and am trying to do things my way. Now I realize why I start an argument every time my spouse is trying to be helpful.”
That’s a massive awakening.
And usually, that’s enough to actually change a person’s behavior, since most of our habits are pretty much unconscious.
So my challenge for you today is pretty simple: take some time to observe the in-between periods.
Observe yourself and the desire to fidget – to want “something to do” which often shows up as food.
Bonus points? Next time you’re in the waiting line at the doctor’s office, just observe how people deal with down time.
Most people get uncomfortable, and the fidgeting sets in. And really it’s just the craving for “something to do” aka stimulation.
If you observe this long enough, you’ll see that certain times of the day you crave stimulation, or maybe even during certain activities (work, TV, etc.).
And like most habits, once you know they exist and when they happen, it’s easy to change them.
Your Tiny Habit For Today
Your tiny habit for today is simple: take time to observe the in-between moments, the down time, and the lines you find yourself standing in.
Observe how other people fidget to fill that time, and watch how others use food to fill the boring periods of life.
And most of all, spend some time thinking about how you might be using food to fill the void, when in reality you may just be craving something to do.
When do you find yourself bored eating the most? Share below.