Am I hungry or just bored?
It is very common to eat when you are bored. We all do it, but it becomes a problem when you are trying to keep your weight in check. Boredom eating is one of the hardest eating habits to overcome! It is easy to cave in, especially when you have constant access to food, whether it be a stocked-up pantry or access to food delivery services.
Being surrounded by a lot of food tempting stimuli can lead us to eating for all the wrong reasons, it also makes it way too easy to overeat! There really is only one reason we should eat – hunger. We need to eat to survive not to combat our emotions, stress, or social pressure, and especially not just because we’re bored!
It sounds simple but we know that is not the case with such deliciousness calling out your name!
With constant distractions and noise that effect our day to day lives, it’s safe to say that we have lost touch with what we need on a basic level. Sometimes we are too busy to listen to our body’s fundamental cues or we don’t interpret them correctly! For example, being guided by our sense of smell and what we can see may lead to eating in excess.
What does hunger feel like?
This question may sound silly because we all think we know what hunger feels like, but to what extent? When we strip back all the interference in our life, we need to ensure we’re paying attention to the signs our body is giving us!
According to the Oxford dictionary the definition of “hunger” is:
A feeling of discomfort or weakness caused by lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat. Common symptoms of hunger include:
- Feeling of emptiness in your stomach
- Feelings of dizziness, or light-headedness
- Irritability easily agitated (commonly referred to as ‘hangry’ – the combination of hungry and angry!
- Lack of concentration
Now, we are not suggesting you wait until you feel all these symptoms before eating – but it’s important to know the difference between hunger and boredom!
How to stop boredom eating
Before you start picking at everything in sight, take a step back and assess the signals that your body is sending you, ask yourself why you want to eat it. This is a key step in becoming what we call a ‘mindful eater’. Tune in to what your body needs to determine whether you’re hungry.
When you feel the impulse to eat, stop and consider if you are acting on a genuine hunger pain, or if it’s a different cue that is influencing you. Try drinking some water, dehydration can disguise itself as hunger, so if you’re feeling peckish you might just be parched!
If you are bored or often use food as a crutch for something else, stop what you’re doing and try to distract yourself. Do something to take your mind off food, call a friend or family member, go on a walk – bonus points for that! This process of switching focus is a way to stop temptation when you’re not geniunely hungry.
One thing you can do to acknowledge your eating habits is to log what you eat throughout the day. This will help you see whether or not you should be hungry according to what you have consumed that day. There are countless apps that offer food diaries but a good old fashioned pen and paper will do the trick.
Why am I still hungry?
You’ve regulated your eating habits and determined that you have not engaged in boredom eating, but you’re still hungry, why?
Believe it or not, your stomach is capable of holding up to 4 litres of volume, which is around 17 cups, but the feeling of satiety is not caused by your stomach being full! Feeling full is the result of your brain reacting to chemicals released when you fill your stomach with food or drink. It takes around 20 minutes for your brain to register these chemicals. Once you’ve finished eating, the levels start to rise over the next 10-30 minutes. They stay elevated for three to five hours following the meal, keeping you sated. As the chemical levels fall, the feeling of hunger sets in. If you do not feel full directly after eating, then just wait a little while. As the level of chemicals increase, your hunger will dissipate.
If you still feel hungry after a meal, then you may actually still be hungry! Listen to the signals your body is giving you. Aim to eat low-GI foods, and foods high in protein, they digest more slowly, keeping you fuller for longer.