Craving potato chips or chocolate? Your job may be to blame for why you’re not losing weight… seriously. If you’re doing work that you aren’t passionate about and are feeling uninspired and bored at work, there may be a science-backed reason you reach into the candy jar or hit the vending machine for cookies or potato chips mid-afternoon.
One study found that people are more likely to eat fatty, sugary foods if they are bored. One of the study’s authors suggests that we experience low levels of dopamine, a brain chemical, when we’re bored, and this could drive us to compensate by eating fat and sugar.
Yep, I can’t wait to share this little nugget with my husband, who might actually turn into a tortilla chip one of these days, especially during football season. Thanks alma mater for your boring season that’s obviously contributing to our junk food cravings.
So, if you find yourself mowing through a bag of chips or noshing on sugary snacks on the regular, consider your mood. Are you antsy? If so, here are some practical tips to help you avoid shoveling food in your mouth when you’re bored.
Not Losing Weight? 4 Things to Try When You’re Bored (That Don’t Include Eating)
1. Sip some seltzer.
Sugar- and alcohol-free, of course. If I had a glass of water for every time I was told to drink more water… I’d probably be down a few dress sizes by now. But really, this strategy does work. Next time you’re tempted to snack when you’re not really hungry, drink a fizzy glass of seltzer (or plain water if that’s your thang). The fluid will fill you up enough so you will (hopefully) pause long enough to think before you reach for that pint of ice cream.
2. Keep your hands busy.
If you’re tempted to snack when you’re watching Netflix, do something to keep your hands engaged… and we aren’t talking about putting hand to mouth here, people. Try adulating with a coloring book, playing crossword puzzles, knitting, or even catching up on emails to keep your hands occupied and out of the chip bag.
3. Set physical boundaries.
My hunch is you know the circumstances in which you engage in bored eating. It usually goes down when standing in the kitchen, sitting at your desk in front of the computer, or cozied up on the sofa. Rarely does it happen when you’re sitting at the table, eating intentionally with a fork.
Set physical boundaries around food; it can work wonders to keep emotional eating at bay. For example, if you tend to snack on the couch while you watch Netflix at night, make it a rule that you don’t eat on the couch. Portion your food, put it on a plate, and eat it at the dining or kitchen table. Then, you can leave the table and watch your show. Not only will you break the pattern of snacking mindlessly in front of the television, but you’ll also learn that making eating a more formal affair can help you focus more on what you eat, why you’re eating it, and how much you consume.
4. Get some fresh air and do something active.
Get away from your desk and take an afternoon walk to keep your mind off snacking. Take your tablet, laptop, or phone outside and stream a quick Beachbody on Demand workout. Good options to get your heart rate up quickly during your lunch hour: 22 Minute Hard Corps, FOCUS T25, or INSANITY MAX 30. Not only will this serve as a distraction from boredom eating, but sun exposure and being active may also help with boosting “feel good hormones” like serotonin. That’s a triple whammy for combating mood swings.
The key to managing eating when you’re bored is to understand how compulsive it can be. It’s a sneaky habit that can keep you from losing weight. You may not even realize that you snag a thin mint each time you walk by the kitchen area at work to take a break. But, those cookie calories can really add up over the course of the day. Keep these strategies top of mind to fight the compulsive habit to snack when you’re bored.