Table of Contents
- Are you genuinely hungry?
- Why do I binge when I'm bored?
- 3-Step Plan to Stop Binge Eating
- Could it be loneliness?
- Sometimes, (healthy) distractions work.
- It is okay to be bored.
Do you head for the kitchen whenever you’re bored?
Maybe you try to resist temptation, but no matter how much willpower you use, you feel inexplicably pulled to the kitchen as if drawn by a powerful magnet.
Before you know it, there’s an empty box of your favorite snack and you’re scrounging for what to eat next. All the while you’re filled with regret and self-loathing.
In this blog, I will discuss why you eat when you're bored and how you can stop it and live a life without constant food thoughts.
Are you genuinely hungry?
We live in a busy society and many of us have to-do lists that stretch into the next century. Some of us are so preoccupied with tasks that we don’t have time to eat. Finally, when we come to a stop and there’s nothing else to do, we can feel restless, bored, and often hungry.
If you’re physically hungry, it’s important to eat. Hunger is a sign that our bodies need nourishment. Our bodies tell us when we need to eat; signs of hunger include lightheadedness, a gurgling stomach, or even losing our ability to concentrate and find words.
If you turn to food even when you're full, keep reading.
Why do I binge when I'm bored?
If you're bingeing after a meal or when you’re not physically hungry, that’s a sign of emotional eating. Here's what happens:
When you're busy at work or doing fun things and occupied, those binge urges seem to go away. But as soon as you're alone with yourself, you might start thinking about something you've been trying to avoid all day. Maybe it's your difficult job or a conflict with your partner. We often think we’re bored when we’re actually empty or lonely.
Eating is a way of comforting ourselves and avoiding any difficult, painful, or unpleasant feelings.
We can get so good at comfort eating and may turn so quickly to food that we don't even know we're upset.
Staying busy is not the answer. Instead, consider this:
3-Step Plan to Stop Binge Eating
Spot the food & feelings
Track your behavior cravings. First, identify what kind of food you binge eat when you're bored (or think you’re bored).
Maybe it’s something smooth and creamy like ice cream. Or filling like cake, burgers, or bread. Perhaps you grab a bag of chips or reach for chocolate.
What’s it all about? In working solely with patients struggling with eating disorders, I came to develop a method which identifies what you feel by the food you eat because certain foods relate to specific emotions.
For example, crunchy food like chips is associated with forms of anger such as annoyance, frustration, irritation or rage. Creamy food like ice cream is connected with the need for comfort, and filling foods like cake, burgers, pizza or bread, means you're trying to fill an emotional void.
What about chocolate? Consider if you need more sweetness in your life. You can find more the connection between food and your hidden emotions in my free guide, Food-Mood formula.
Once you know your binge food, you'd know your feelings.
Decode the triggers
Do you run to food when you're overworked?
Do you crunch out your frustration and annoyance when thinking about your job?
Do you settle a conflict with your loved ones in the kitchen with your favorite snack?
Ask yourself what's causing you to binge. Observe and analyze what was going on before you turned to food. Consider what is troubling you in your life.
Once you have narrowed down the “why” behind your binge, you’re ready for the next step.
Accept, Express & Resolve
Now that you know the reason behind your bingeing, it's time to address the problem. The very first step is to accept and validate what’s going on with you. Remember the way to liberation is through acceptance. Think about what you’d say to a friend who was going through a challenge. Then, talk to yourself as if you were your own best friend. I promise you’ll feel so much better once you accept what’s going on inside.
The next is to express your emotions with words. That means journaling, sharing with loved ones or friends. Take actionable steps to express your feelings. After all, what you feel, you will heal. That’s how you resolve whatever is going on inside.
Could it be loneliness?
We often think we’re bored when something else is going on. In my experience of the last two decades as a psychoanalyst treating binge eating disorder, I’ve heard a lot of people say that they’re bored when actually they’re lonely.
Loneliness can feel like an emptiness that we may then symbolically fill with food. Again, we turn to food so quickly that we bypass the true emotions or needs. We label it “boredom” because that’s less painful that loneliness.
When you meet that actual need — be it loneliness or boredom — you stop using food for comfort/distraction. So if you're lonely – call a friend or join my Facebook Community. We’re happy happy to hear from you and support you in your journey.
When you connect with people, you fill the void with connection, friendship, and love, and you don't need food for that purpose.
Sometimes, (healthy) distractions work.
Sometimes we want a quick fix, a distraction from what’s painful. Eating and bingeing is a distraction, but certainly not one that benefits us. There are other distractions that are more helpful and a lot healthier.
Cultivate a hobby or start a project that you will enjoy so that whenever you feel the urge to binge, you might to the new hobby instead of to food. Here are some ideas:
- Read books that evoke positive emotions.
- Watch a feel-good movie or series.
- Rekindle an old hobby that you've been putting off for months or years.
Indulging in activities we enjoy are one way of responding to ourselves instead of comforting ourselves with food. This isn’t meant to take the place of processing what’s eating “at” us, but it’s a temporary measure that can work
It is okay to be bored.
Deepak Chopra reminds us that we’re “human beings, not human doings.” We live in a world where connectivity rules, we’re glued to our cell phones and other devices, and there’s always something to do. The idea of down time and just “being” is becoming increasingly unfamiliar. Try making peace with being a little bored. It's actually important to disconnect for a while and relax.
My book,The Binge Cure: 7 Steps to Outsmart Emotional Eating gives you step-by-step strategies and tools to make peace with yourself and food. I’ve heard from dozens of readers who escaped food obsession and guilt, and created a life of liberation and happiness, just from reading this book. Available on in paperback, hardcover, Kindle, and audiobook versions. If you have questions, DM me on my Instagram. I'll be happy to respond to you, or you can ask it in my Facebook community.
What if I mess up and binge?
Change isn't a single-step process but a succession of steps. Nobody sits down at a piano for the first time and plays a song. First you must identify the piano keys, learn the chords, and then practice. Then, you keep practicing, making mistakes and improving, until one day, you sit down at the piano and play effortlessly.
The same applies to stop binge eating; allow yourself to learn, keep practicing and eventually it will be effortless. That’s when you feel liberated.
What should I do immediately after I binge?
Don't be harsh to yourself. Don’t reprimand or belittle yourself for bingeing. Remember, if you’re turning “to” food, you’re turning “away” from something else. Think of the binge as a learning opportunity. Look for clues to see what triggered you. Ask yourself what was happening in your life before you started bingeing. It takes time to unlearn the coping strategy of bingeing and create a new system of responding to yourself. Stay curious and be gentle with yourself.
What are other signs to know if I'm physically hungry or emotionally hungry?
If you :
1. Have a growling, gurgling stomach
2. Feel light-headed
3. Get a headache, especially if you haven't eaten for several hours
Then you’re physically hungry.
The signs of emotional hunger are located more in your thoughts than in your body:
1. A specific food sounds good or looks good
2. You want to reward yourself
3. You want to calm down or feel better emotionally
Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin is a psychoanalyst, author and radio host specializing in binge eating disorder. She is the author of The Binge Cure: 7 Steps to Outsmart Emotional Eating and Food for Thought: Perspectives on Eating Disorders, and co-editor of Beyond the Primal Addiction. She hosts The Dr. Nina Show radio program on LA Talk Radio. Her recent TEDx talk is Why Binge Eating is NOT about Food. (we can link to it once it is up)