Causes and Solutions for Binge Eating
We have all had that feeling.
It’s late at night. You have your favorite series playing on Netflix.
Eventually, there is a lull in the plot. Your mind starts to wander.
Next thing you know, you are headed to your kitchen for a quick snack. It’s a bag of potato chips or something to satisfy your sweet tooth. You need something quick and convenient to light up the pleasure sensors in your brain like fireworks.
Returning to the sofa, you get back to your Netflix marathon. However, this time, you’re enjoying a salty bag of chips. On some occasions, it is accompanied with a side order of chocolate cake, cookies, and a Cinnabon.
It's Not Really Your Fault
How did this happen? What caused the sugar binge onslaught?
If only the Netflix series had been more engaging, you could have resisted the temptation. Unfortunately, for the majority of people, salt and sugar get the upper hand every time.
It’s a wicked combination. Especially, when you are bored and junk food is readily available.
Sugar is more addictive than cocaine, while salt is almost as addictive as alcohol or nicotine. Both release dopamine in the brain which makes us crave more and more.
So how can you resist what your brain is so hard-wired to consume?
Fortunately, it is not as hopeless as you may think.
Learn How to Stop Eating When Bored by Following These 6 Guidelines
There are a few simple guidelines that can help you stop eating whenever you get bored. Whether you decide to follow them, or not, is up to you.
1. Change Your Diet
A big reason why we tend to eat when we are bored is because of bad eating habits and diet.
If you are consuming certain foods frequently with your regular meals, then you are more likely to crave those same foods when you are bored. As the old saying goes, “You are what you eat.”
In other words, your boredom “comfort foods” often reflect what you eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That is why people who have sugary foods (including carbs) with their regular meals are also likely to have sugary snacks.
So what’s the solution?
Eat only healthy meals for your main meals. That means little or no added sugar whatsoever. Nourish your body with what it needs; not with what your brain is addicted to. Doing this will reduce your cravings for junk food when you are bored.
Therefore, what exactly should you eat for your main meals?
To keep it simple, read the two lists below for a clearer understanding of what constitutes a healthy diet.
The Healthy Food List
These are foods that you should eat more:
- Vegetables (especially dark greens)
- Protein (seafood, chicken, pork, eggs, some beef)
- Healthy natural fats (extra virgin olive, coconut, avocado, and hemp oil)
- Legumes (lentils and beans)
- Nuts and seeds
- Berries and other fruit occasionally
The Unhealthy Food List
These are foods that you should eat significantly less and avoid:
- Processed food
- Junk food
- Fast food
- Soft drinks
- Anything with added sugar
- Any other food high in carbohydrates (especially white carbs)
- Limited dairy
- Limited fruit juices (high in added sugar)
- Limited alcohol (especially beer and mixed beverages)
What about snacks?
Snacks are highly recommended, as long as they are healthy ones. For instance, any food items from “The Healthy Food List” above would make a great snack.
With these guidelines in mind, it helps to schedule healthy snacks throughout the day. We often feel hungry after about two to three hours after a meal. So when hunger arises suddenly, we are more likely to eat junk food to try and fill the hole in our stomach quickly.
As a result, the covert combination of hunger, sugar, and salt causes us to overeat unhealthy foods. And sometimes it feels nearly impossible to stop once we start the binge.
Daily Snack Schedules
To prevent binge eating, you need to set a healthy snack schedule.
Have a snack two to three hours after every main meal. By implementing this strategy throughout the day, you are far less likely to eat junk food when you are bored.
While you are having a snack, drinking water will help curb cravings too. Sometimes the body can confuse feelings of thirst for hunger. Often all that you need is a glass of water or a hot cup of tea to satisfy those food cravings.
Changing your main diet is the most effective way for how to stop eating when bored. However, there are some other techniques that you can try. These strategies include meditation, exercise, active hobbies, and some other helpful habits that can prevent a bad food binge.
2. Practice Mindful Meditation
Sometimes we act on impulse without thinking things through. Mindfulness meditation can greatly reduce your food cravings. It is a practical tool for relaxation, lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, improving mental clarity, and has numerous other health benefits.
In fact, you can also use meditation to reduce and handle food cravings.
The next time you are tempted to eat when you are bored, stop and take a deep breath. Breathe like this several times, in and out from your lower stomach (not your chest). Watch yourself and your bodily sensations. Feel your heartbeat. Do a body scan and notice the sensations from head to toe.
Practicing mindfulness can be done during meals and healthy snack periods as well. It will help you eat more slowly and enjoy the flavor of the food more.
Slowing your rate of consumption in this way will also reduce the amount of food that you eat. This is because it takes approximately 20 minutes for the brain to recognize a full stomach.
Therefore, eat slower, really focus your attention on the food’s flavor. You’ll likely eat a lot less as a result.
Repeating meditation methods calms the mind. It makes us more aware of what our body craves. Often you will notice that cravings are only cravings. You may realize that you aren’t really hungry at all. Like this, the brain can trick us into craving something that the belly doesn’t actually need that badly after all.
3. Exercise and Be Active
What else is there to do besides eat when you’re bored?
Eating is probably the default action for most of us. However, there are far more productive actions that will make you feel far less guilty.
You may sneer at the idea of it, but exercise is the ideal replacement for junk food binges.
Whenever you feel a food craving when you’re bored at home, rewire your brain and do some simple exercises. You don’t have to run a marathon or anything. Just try a few sets of sit-ups or push-ups. If you would rather do something less strenuous, do some yoga, stretching, and deep breathing exercises.
A little exercise goes a long way.
You will feel much better after doing three short sets of standing squats instead of eating three bags of “low fat” potato chips on the sofa.
4. Take Up a New Hobby
If you don't feel like exercising, another great replacement for “boredom binges” is your favorite hobby. A lot of the time, we eat when we’re bored just to keep our hands busy doing something.
Can’t think of any hobbies that you would enjoy?
Reflect back to when you were younger. Likely, something will come to mind that you would like to try doing again. Perhaps there is something that you always wanted to try, but never had time to pursue. Do a search on Pinterest for hobbies and find something you like.
Replace the food eating habit with a fun hobby that you would love to do. Then, you’ll feel more fulfilled and less “full” because you decided to pursue your passions.
5. Eat in the Kitchen Only
As you may have noticed already, a lot of these tips focus on creating clear guidelines for yourself to follow. Another rule that you can make is to restrict eating to the kitchen only. All other rooms in the home should be off-limits for food consumption.
It is a simple, yet highly effective strategy. If you follow this principle, then you will less likely eat when you are bored in the living room watching TV. You will be less tempted to eat in bed. Sneaking a snack in the tub will no longer be an issue either.
Keep the food on the kitchen table.
6. Schedule a Cheat Day
Nobody is expected to abstain from the occasional comfort food every now and then. Eating nothing but natural healthy food for your whole life would be ideal, but it’s not very realistic. Even Wonder Woman and Superman have their vices.
Set one day in the week aside for eating anything that you want. Ice cream, chocolate bars, donuts, french fries, cinnamon buns, and whatever else you desire can be devoured. Don’t feel guilty about it either. It’s your day to cheat and consume anything you like.
Despite allowing yourself a cheat day, you may even discover that you don’t want to eat as much junk food as you did in the past. Eating healthy for 6-days a week tends to rewire the brain, so you have fewer sugar cravings in the long run.
By applying these seven guidelines to your weekly routine, you can significantly reduce binge eating. The key factor depends on how you manage your regular diet. Eat healthy the majority of the time for each main meal, schedule healthy snack breaks, and drink plenty of water.
Then, if you ever feel an urge to eat when you’re bored, replace the bad habit with a better one. Practice mindful meditation, try exercising, and take up a new hobby.
Plus, remember to stick to eating in the kitchen, schedule a cheat day, and always remember to enjoy the sweet things in life every once in a while.
Extra Tips on How to Stop Eating When Bored
Where these six guidelines useful for you?
Maybe you have some other advice about reducing food cravings that you’d like to share. Please leave a comment below and join in on the discussion.
Plus, have a look at the Health Benefits 101 website for more nutritional advice.
VIDEO: Watch Jessica's Alternative Strategy
Sweet Facts and Figures
There is a lot of "added sugar" in soft drinks, juices, junk food, and other foods high in carbohydrates. Many people are unaware of how much added sugar they are consuming on a regular basis.
The average American has about 20 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
However, the following sugar limits are recommended:
- Men: 9 teaspoons
- Women: 6 teaspoons
Source: Sugar Science
Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on September 22, 2019:
Good tips. I would add a word of caution on the "cheat day." If you go completely overboard, you can undo all the good work you've done all week. I think a "cheat meal" might be a better idea. Have a burger and fries. Just don't have an all-you-can-eat buffet, followed by ice cream at Dairy Queen too.
rudhir tiwari from Delhi on May 28, 2018:
The article you wrote is very good and i have also written an article
that you can read once and tell me how it is.