This situation poses a problem for all of us. For those seeking weight loss, it’s an issue for obvious reasons. Your body doesn’t actually need the food and you’re consuming excess calories that aren’t necessary. However, even for those of us not seeking weight loss, eating mindlessly just because it’s something to do is not a healthy practice either. And let’s face it, in your boredom trip to the fridge, hardly any of us are likely to walk away with a handful of grape tomatoes or a delicious plate of raw broccoli. It’s very often snacks with high calories and not a lot of nutrition. But why?
It’s dopamine! Dopamine is a chemical that is released whenever we feel pleasure or do something that feels satisfying. Drugs, cigarettes, gambling — they all trigger dopamine to rise. Whenever we get bored, our dopamine levels start to drop and this pushes us to bring that back up with something gratifying. Usually, that gratification comes in the place of food. After all, nothing beats the pleasure you feel from eating something tasty!
When this becomes really dangerous is when your body begins to get used to using food to boost your dopamine during boredom. Then, you begin to become wired to use food to relieve your boredom, making bored eating a full-on habit. If this is you, the good news is, you’re not doomed forever. Here are some tips:
1. Be aware of when you’re beginning to get bored or recognize times that you usually get bored throughout the day. Once you familiarize yourself with this and make yourself aware, you can make yourself conscious that you’re not really hungry.
2. Think of other things that give you pleasure that you can engage in when you’re bored. Start a new TV show or book. Maybe even get out of the house and walk your dog so that you’re away from the food in your home. If you’re stuck at your desk, find an app or computer game to keep you occupied. Whatever activities you choose, the more you do them, the more your brain will want to do that when bored than eat.
3. It may also be a good idea to keep a bottle of water at your desk or your end table to sip on even when you’re not bored. Dehydration can be one misleading cue that makes you think you’re hungry when you’re not, but also just keeping your belly full can help keep those boredom munchies away.