Guest Post: 5 Tips to Cope with Down Time Eating
Do you eat simply to have something to do? You’re initial reaction is probably a resounding no, but take a moment to reconsider. Be honest with yourself! If your answer is yes (or perhaps just a slightly guilty maybe), guess what? You’re not alone. Millions of people engage in this bad habit.
Unfortunately, like most bad habits, down time eating (a.k.a. boredom eating) isn’t an easy thing to stop. However, here are five tips that might help:
1.) Recognize – The first thing you need to do is realize that you have a problem. If you don’t think you have a bad habit then how could you possibly break it? Acknowledge that you eat when you’re bored or when you have free time. One way to pinpoint this problem is to keep a food diary. Write down what you eat and when. Keep a sharp lookout for any patterns such as eating whenever you’re waiting for your kids to finish soccer practice or when you’re relaxing in front of the television.
2.) Have a drink…of water that is – When you find yourself looking for a tasty treat have a big drink of water instead. First off, water is just plain good for you, but it can also take up space in your stomach making you feel fuller. There are tons of low or no calorie flavorings you can add to your water if you want something other than “plain”. In addition, studies have shown that sometimes our brains don’t distinguish between being hungry and being thirsty. If your having trouble determining whether you’re actually hungry or just bored grab a glass of water.
3.) Make a list and check it twice – There’s a very simple way to break the habit of down time eating – find something better to do. Ah, there’s the problem. What’s better than indulging in a sweet snack? Make a list. Make yourself a list of things you enjoy doing or need to do that you can refer to when you’re tempted. That book you’ve been wanting to read? That new computer game you’ve wanted to try? That cluttered closet you’ve been meaning to get to? Put them all on your list for the next time your rummaging through the cupboards. The act of making your anti-boredom eating list will help stave off boredom eating!
4.) Brush your teeth – The next time you’re trying to figure out what you can snack on head straight into the bathroom and brush your teeth. At this point, you may be thinking, “wait, what?” but brushing your teeth can have a temporary effect on your desire to eat. Your mouth will feel fresh, minty, and clean which translates to the brain as “meal time is over”. In addition, food doesn’t taste so great right after you brush your teeth so you’ll probably be a little hesitant to go chow down.
5.) Say no to sweets and treats – Okay, this might seem obvious but it’s important. On your trips to the grocery store avoid purchasing problem snacks. Refer to your food diary. Is there a certain food or foods you always pick to satisfy your down time “hunger” cravings? For instance, if you always engage in boredom eating while watching television and your go to snack is popcorn don’t load up on it at the store.
Down time eating (a.k.a. boredom eating) is a bad habit. There’s simply no other way to look at it. The good news is this isn’t an uncommon problem so there are plenty of tips and tricks available to help you kick this habit to the curb.
One final bit of advice: If you simply MUST eat while bored go for a healthy alternative. Instead of chips and dip have carrots and hummus. Instead of ice cream have a frozen banana. Pick out your favorite snack and search the Internet for a healthy alternative.
This post contributed by Alex Webb on behalf of Tristate Orthopaedic Treatment Center providers of Cincinnati sports medicine. Alex is working to lead a healthier lifestyle. She’s always looking for new tips and tricks to aid her on this journey as well as for opportunities to share her own knowledge on safely getting fit and being healthy.