Fight the Boredom Munchies

Prone to eating when you've got nothing to do? Here are 15 ways to keep busy.
Published April 27, 2016

What makes you blow your diet? A big presentation at work? A fight with your hubby? Absolute boredom?

Whatever it is, you're not alone. According to Cynthia G. Last, PhD., author of The 5 Reasons We Overeat (Birch Lane Press), the trick is to really understand your triggers.

Ask yourself what's wrong, and why you're using food to feel better. Talk to friends and family. And know that, as Last says, "Boredom that never feels like it goes away might be part of a depression." If you think that's the case for you, ask your doctor for help.

Another possibility, says Samantha Heller, RD, senior clinical nutritionist at the New York University Medical Center in New York City, is that overeating may be a sign of stress. You feel like you have so many things to do that you're avoiding all of them.

Whatever's the culprit, first understand your motivation, then come up with a plan. Try this:

First, analyze your pattern.
When does boredom eating become a problem for you? Mid-week? Evening? If you know when it's most likely to strike, you'll be better prepared for the battle.

Then come up with alternatives.
Plan what you'll do instead of eating the next time you're bored or stressed. "On an index card, make a list of alternate activities," says Last. "Have the list with you at all times so you can take it out when you need it."

Make sure your list is full of fulfilling things you like to do. Include a variety of things that will suit different moods and times of day. Be sure to add a few items that will help you toward your weight goal, too. Here are some ideas to get you started:

If you have 10 minutes…

  • Write down the foods you've eaten so far today.
  • Make a grocery list of healthy foods.
  • Schedule your next exercise session.
  • Write an email to a friend you haven't caught up with in awhile.
  • Shop online for a new fitness gadget.

If you have 30 minutes…

  • Go for a walk.
  • Look through past weeks in your My Day tracker. Check out weeks that worked, and see if there's anything you did then that you can do again this week.
  • Check out the Connect section of the mobile app.
  • Read a favourite book or relax with a magazine.

If you have an hour or more…

  • Look through healthy recipe ideas.
  • Clean out your closets. Throw away clothes that are now too big, or donate them to charity.
  • Go for a long bike ride.
  • Start a new project. Whether it's fixing something in your house, building a bookshelf or starting a garden.
  • Take your kids to the park.
  • Spend the afternoon at your local museum. This will get you out of the house and walking around, and what better way to get your mind off food than to absorb a little culture?