Controlling eating habits

Controlling eating habits: Eating out of boredom means there is no physiological need for food but you find yourself opening the fridge or cupboard door and before you know it you’ve delved into a container or packet and find yourself munching away on whatever was in there….even if it’s not that appealing!

Boredom eating often means procrastination eating: The desire to eat food as a distraction so as to delay further what really needs to be done. This is because what really needs to be done is seen as BORING and we’ll try anything to put off mundane tasks.

When you’re doing something exciting or that you really enjoy, your dopamine neurons are firing in a fast and furious manner compelling you to take concerted, directed action to achieve whatever it is that you’re after. This is the opposite of feeling BORED.
So in the absence of more stimulating activity the brain turns to food to effectively fire up our dopamine levels.

People often boredom eat at night as they associate food with relaxation. They link one activity with another. Watching TV or going to the cinema are activities that can be mindlessly linked with eating. They are not bored but are not under any pressure which can trigger one to find an alternate activity. Those who eat while watching TV can take in 71% more calories than those who don’t.

Weddings, parties and other social occasions are other triggers for boredom eating as people are out of routine / hanging around / making small talk… this can lead to eating for the sake of it or over drinking just because it’s there.

SOLUTIONS:

Wait – Cravings can be managed and do pass (as long as there is no real hunger). Remove yourself from the food environment with a pint of water and try to do an alternate activity for 17-20 minutes by which stage the craving may have passed.

Distract – Music is very powerful in lifting one’s spirits and instilling a sense of energy into one’s body and mind. This in itself can give the much needed dopamine rush and is also helpful in getting to grips whatever you may be putting off / dreading.

Slow Down – Instead of looking for pleasure (which is what boredom eating is) try avoiding the dopamine trap and practice closing your eyes and quieting your thoughts for a while. Meditation and mindfulness apps might make you feel calmer and in control, ending up removing your desire to boredom eat, especially if it is a nervous boredom.

Journal -Try to keep a diary of when you eat just because you feel like it but are not actually hungry. Note the time / place and thoughts associated with the craving. Include all the details especially what you ate and how much. Then try to change your routine at that time e.g. night-time between 8 and 9. This may break the association between a time, place or feeling that triggers you to look for food or drink. Review your diary weekly, look at the thought that preceded the eating and the emotions you may have been feeling that day (stressed, overwhelmed, and unstimulated). Using food to cope is very normal and can become a habit. With repetition and CBT this habit can be broken.

Do something creative – This shifts the focus to something that encourages creative brain storming or problem-solving. (Puzzle/crossword/Sudoku)

Connect with friends – When you’re bored you don’t feel stimulated or engaged with your environment. Connecting with others who are meaningful to you in a social environment can reduce feelings of boredom. We are made for human interaction so spending too much time in isolation is a strong trigger for over indulgence. If you can’t meet up link with friends on social media such as twitter or Facebook. Alternatively pick up the phone for a chat. You’ll feel more upbeat afterwards and the urge to eat may be a distant memory.

Get exercise – A brisk walk or short workout can elevate your mood and boost your energy. Exercise releases endorphins the body’s natural ‘feel good’ chemicals. The exertion of exercise may help distract from your urge to eat.

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Blog Post by Claire Jackson