Mindfulness Eating | PCOS Wellness | eating from boredom | boredom eating

Tackling Boredom-Based Eating

PCOS Boredom-Based Eating

I’ve been thinking about how many of our bad eating habits are triggered by boredom….


How often have you sat at home in front of the television, flipping channels, and snacking mindlessly?  How about being at work, where you’re trapped in a cubicle you hate, and the only really good reasons to get up are to go to the bathroom, or to go get a snack or a meal?  How about going to the movies and buying the bargain-sized giant popcorn, right after the meal you just ate? How often do you “need” a snack under these circumstances?


Quite often, we do a semi-decent job of planning ahead for breakfast, maybe even lunch or dinner, but snacks are hazardous territory.  And unfortunately, it’s not usually the planned meals that do us in; it’s the random, boredom-based snacking.

The key is, when you’re bored, it’s a little more complicated than suggested by merely moaning, “I’m bored.”  When you’re bored, you’re probably also dealing with at least one of the following:


  • Anger about being stuck in a situation you don’t like, or doing a task you don’t want to do, or being with people you don’t necessarily want to be with.


  • Feeling trapped/having limited choices.


  • Limited mental engagement (you’re under-performing, not challenged enough, or doing something for the millionth time, without thought).


  • Fear of being stuck in this sensation of boredom forever.


  • Frustration about all of the above.


When all of those things are going on, it’s likely that your brain starts to shut down from the overwhelm.  You need soothing.  You get a snack.  You reach for something carby/fatty/sugary – anything that’s not on your self-determined, approved healthy eating plan.


Seriously – have you ever noticed that you’ve just gotta’ have some cold sliced chicken breast, or a cup of low-fat milk?  No, it’s much more likely you’re going after chips, salted nuts, chocolate, pastry, cookies, ice cream….


You want a treat, some compensation for your misery. 


Food is the easiest way to treat your self.  It tastes good.  It takes your mind off the other stuff.  It gives you something else to focus on.


Next time you’re feeling bored, I suggest the following instead:


  • Get off the couch and get outside for a little walk.


  • Make a gratitude list, and see how long you stay focused on your boredom.


  • Call a friend who’s prone to boredom-based eating (don’t tell me you don’t know anyone!) and ask her to talk you out of it.


  • Sneak into the restroom with your cell phone and play a game on it.


  • Grab a notepad and start writing with “I am bored because….” See what happens. Repeat this phrase until the page is full.



Other helpful strategies include:


  • Prepare some healthy, balanced snacks in advance, maybe even while you’re feeling bored, and make sure they’re readily accessible in all the places where you’re prone to derailing from your plans.


  • Make sure you don’t go too long between meals; you might really be hungry!


  • If you just can’t seem to contain your behavior, consult with a mental health practitioner who can help you get to the roots of the behavior.


  • Eat enough at your meals; this may mean abandoning the idea of grazing or having five or six small meals a day. What works better for you might actually be three squares a day.  You don’t know until you try.


  • Make sure your meals consist of a balanced, attractive, and tasty group of foods. That may seem obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen my patients get frustrated and overdo it on unhealthy snacks, because they’re dying for some carbs, some salt, or a little sweetness.


  • If you need help with the food part, hire a dietician who knows something about PCOS.


Gretchen Kubacky, Psy.D. is a Health Psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles, California.   She is an inCYST Certified PCOS Educator, and the founder of PCOSWellness.com.  She specializes in counseling women and couples who are coping with infertility, PCOS, and related endocrine disorders and chronic illnesses. 

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Gretchen or her practice, or obtain referrals in the Los Angeles area, please visit her website at www.DrGretchenKubacky.com, or e-mail her at AskDrGretchen@gmail.com.  You can also follow her on Twitter @askdrgretchen.

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