Do you ever find yourself reaching for some exciting food because you’re bored? Eating is quick-fix way to conquer boredom, but often leads to regret. In this post I want to talk about ten strategies to help you stop boredom eating. Let’s begin by asking the question, “Why am I eating when bored?”
Why am I eating when bored?
For those of us who crave excitement, we want anything that will take us out of our mundane life and into a little bit of fun and excitement. And of course the most easily available option is the refrigerator. So of course we’ll eat when we’re bored if we enjoy food! It gives us that quick fix of fun and excitement to ease just a tad bit of our boredom. A better question to ask may be, “Why am I bored to begin with?” Let’s take a look at that because if we can stop being bored, we can stop boredom eating.
Why am I bored?
Have you ever heard a friend say, “I’m never bored” or “Boredom is a choice”? I have. And each time I hear it, I think to myself (or more likely out loud), “I’m often bored!” In fact some days I feel like I’m going out of my mind with boredom!! So why are we bored, when our friend is never bored? I can think of ten reasons.
- We like being busy and get bored when we’re not. I listed this reason first because even people who are almost never bored sometimes struggle with boredom during evenings and weekends. If your life is filled with work during the day—and you’re a person who enjoys being busy—then you may be bored at night or on weekends.
- We’re fun-loving people who crave excitement. When I think of my friends who aren’t bored, they usually fall into three camps: they love accomplishment, they love stability, or they love hobbies. When you think about it, all three of those types of people can be satisfied in everyday life. The ones who love accomplishment can make a list no matter what’s happening in their lives and work on accomplishment. The ones who love stability don’t care if they have excitement because excitement by its very nature is a bit unstable. And the ones who love hobbies can usually find a hobby or two to fill up their free time. It’s only people who crave excitement that have a hard time meeting those needs because regular life by its very nature isn’t all that exciting because it’s …. regular life!
- We’re procrastinators and the thought of all that horrible work we should be doing is making us feel bored. I don’t know how many times I feel bored just because I have too much on my plate and all of it sounds very boring to do. That makes me want to avoid work and go get something fun to eat.
- Our regular life doesn’t fit our personalities. My dream job is to be a counselor at a Christian backpacking camp. Unfortunately, that’s not a possibility for me right now, not to mention the fact that most Christian youth camps aren’t looking for a 63-year-old married woman to be their camp counselor! We live in a culture that tells us to follow our passions and go for that dream job, but let’s face it, the dream job isn’t always practical, nor is it always what God wants us to be doing. That said, living a life that’s different than our dream life can still lead to boredom. This leads to the fourth reason for boredom.
- We have unrealistic expectations for life. When we believe the hype that we need to be living our best life and our passion, we start having unrealistic expectations for life. We might think all of life should be just as fun and exciting as the summer we spent as a backpacking camp counselor, when there is no way the rest of our lives will be that fun on a consistent basis. Our unrealistic expectations for life make us feel bored because we’re focusing on what we don’t have rather than on what we do have.
- We expect ourselves to work too much without reward. When I was working full-time before I had kids, I rarely got bored. This was because my days were filled with work. And since I worked at a bank, my days were also filled with people. I enjoyed my work and also enjoyed all the visiting. Work in and of itself was a reward. But when I started working at home, first as a stay-at-home mom, then a homeschool mom, and finally as a writer, I often got bored (and still often get bored). I’m beginning to realize that one of the reasons I get bored is because I’m doing a job that doesn’t energize me without taking enough “reward” breaks. This is a recipe for continued boredom, not to mention procrastination. Which leads us to the next reason for boredom …
- We don’t manage our work well. For those of us who spend the majority of our days at home, one of our biggest problems is that we have too much time on our hands. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot to do. It just means we have to manage our time ourselves and that can lead to long blocks of time with nothing to do (because either we don’t have that much to do or we’re procrastinating). And those long blocks of time can lead to boredom.
- We don’t have enough on our plate. Another possible reason for being bored is that we don’t have enough to fill our time. Many people reported boredom during the pandemic because they were out of work and weren’t used to being out of work. Or you may be in a season of life such as retirement where you haven’t figured out how to fill up your time and that leaves you with a lot of boredom on your hands.
- We’ve trained ourselves to need constant excitement. Educators say that it’s hard to teach kids today because kids have been trained to expect constant excitement through playing video games, watching TV, and doing other forms of electronic entertainment. Kids aren’t the only ones with this struggle. We also struggle because we have the same temptation to constantly jump on our phones whenever we’re bored.
- We’re making life about “having fun and excitement” and not about God. Whenever we try to fill ourselves up with something other than God, we never get enough to satisfy us. So if I’m trying to fill myself up with fun and excitement—and feel like I need that fun and excitement to live a great life—I’ll never get enough to satisfy me and I’ll live in boredom.
We’ll take a look at ten strategies for how to stop boredom eating by learning not to be bored in a minute, but before we do that, let’s look at three practical tips to stop boredom eating.
3 Practical Tips to Stop Boredom Eating
- Hide or remove exciting food from your house. Let’s face it, more often than not, if it’s there to eat, we’ll eat it! To solve that problem, try not to have exciting foods in the house–or if you can’t do that, ask someone in your house to hide them from you!
- Make it harder to buy exciting foods when you’re out on the town. If you have a tendency to stop and get exciting food when you’re out driving, find a way to make it harder to get that food. You could change your driving route, put your wallet in the far corner of the back seat so you can’t reach it when you go through the drive through, or renew your mind before you make that drive so you don’t want the exciting treats. If you’re within walking distance of exciting treats, consider leaving your billfold at home so you won’t be tempted to get them.
- Eliminate exciting foods from your diet. Sometimes it’s easier to have none than one. At different phases of my life I’ve given up sugar. Was my life boring in the food department? Yes!! But did it help me give up boredom eating? Again, yes!! This is a drastic move, but it can actually make life better if you’re constantly craving sweets or chips or something like that and then giving into your cravings whenever you’re bored.
Okay, now that we have the practical tips out of the way, let’s look at the bigger picture. And in some ways this bigger picture is about how to stop boredom itself–because if we learn how to stop being bored, we’ll learn how to stop boredom eating.
How to Stop Boredom Eating (By Learning How to Stop Being Bored!) – 10 Strategies
- Let go of unrealistic expectations for this phase of your life. While we might expect life to be constantly exciting if we’re backpacking counselors at a Christian camp, we can’t expect life to be constantly exciting with most stages of life! Take a minute and think about your current life phase. On a scale of 1 to 10 how exciting should you expect your days to be? Based on your answer, give up your unrealistic expectations and then move onto the next step.
- Embrace regular life. Think of it this way. What if you lived in a war-torn country and all of a sudden the war stopped? Would you be thankful for regular life or would you be craving excitement? I think we’d all be thankful for regular life. The more we can embrace life as-is and tell ourselves that this regular life is great, the less bored we’ll be.
- Make life about God. I still remember years ago complaining to a friend about how boring my life was. My friend, said, Barb, what is excitement from a biblical perspective? I thought about that for a minute and replied that excitement from a biblical perspective would be growing closer to God and serving Him and even doing things like helping others break free from strongholds. From a biblical perspective my life (and work) was exciting. But I wasn’t seeing that because I was looking at excitement from a cultural perspective.
- Learn how to manage your work or day-to-day life. If you spend your days at home, learn to manage your work and time well. I talk a bit about this in my book, Freedom from Procrastination, and I am learning more about this as I go along. This is something that will be different for each of us, and it’s a project in and of itself.
- Work on overcoming procrastination. The less we procrastinate, the less time we’ll spend being bored. Not only will we have less down time (because we’ll actually be getting those things done), but we’ll also be less bored because we won’t have that dreaded job hanging over our heads. That said, it’s incredibly difficult to overcome procrastination. If you need help with it, check out my Bible study and workbook, Freedom from Procrastination.
- Plan rewards for work or find ways to make work fun. If you’re a person who is more fun-focused rather than accomplishment focused, you’ll be far happier if you find a way to make work fun or at the very least plan some rewards for work.
- Get more on your plate. If you don’t have enough to fill your days, think of new ways to fill it. God never meant for us to spend our days watching Netflix all day! Find ways to serve others and love others well. The more we focus on others, the less we’ll focus on ourselves and how bored we are.
- Find non-addictive ways to fit excitement into your day. There is nothing wrong with trying to make life more exciting, as long as God would approve of the type of excitement we’re adding to our lives! If you’re in a season of life where you don’t naturally have a lot of fun and excitement in your life, try to plan for it. For example, when I’m planning coaching calls, podcast interviews, or appointments, I try to space them out through the week so I have at least one of those a day since I’m energized by being with people. I also usually talk to one friend or family member by phone each day. These are non-addictive ways I can add fun and excitement to my life. You may be different than me, so you’ll have to ask, “What energizes me?” and try to add some of that to your life each day if possible.
- Put limits on your phone, Netflix, or other entertainment sources. We spoke earlier about how we train ourselves to need constant excitement. We do the same things with food. When we eat exciting food too often, we train ourselves to need exciting food all the time. It seems counterintuitive, but the more we reign in our desires for constant excitement and learn to have it as treats rather than regular life, the less bored we’ll find ourselves.
- Make a plan for downtime. If you regularly experience boredom in the evenings, late afternoons, or weekends, make an actual schedule for how you’ll spend your time during those periods. It can be a schedule with time slots (7:00-8:00 board game with kids, 8:00-8:30 read, etc.) or it could just be an order of events: certain things you’ll do in a certain order each day during that downtime but without a time tied to them (do dishes, fold clothes, go on a walk, renew my mind, read, etc.).
If you’d like more help with overcoming boredom eating, check out this post: When Life is Boring – 10 Questions to Ask.
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