Savvy Therapy

I am not hungry: I am bored – I’ll eat to pass the time away….

Boredom is a feeling of weariness, of tedium, of flatness and a humdrum life.  People who eat to fill boredom can spend hours, days, weeks and years trying to fill up their time bite by bite.   Boredom eaters do not like unstructured time and are always searching for something to do.   They feel guilty if they are not ‘doing’ something and eating meets the requirement for activity.

Boredom is rarely mentioned as a mood state as are anxiety, agitation, anger, depression and fatigue, all frequent triggers of excessive food intake. Being bored is not considered pathological.  And yet, many who struggle with losing weight and keeping it off understand that when boredom is no longer endurable, eating seems to be the easiest way to escape this mood.

The tendency to eat when bored probably started when we were very young. Our mothers fed us something to keep us from fretting and whining when stuck in a car seat, or waiting in a pushchair for a conversation with someone to end. Eating to relieve boredom becomes a habit we take with us through adulthood and into old age. We turn to food as a diversion while studying for an exam, preparing a report, or playing another game. Many people welcome the afternoon and evening snacks as a break in the often long hours of tedium.

Being bored not only makes us eat more than we should, it also is a convenient excuse for not exercising. Physical activity routines are often repetitious: walking around the neighborhood or track, using the same piece of exercise equipment, going through the too-familiar routines of a yoga or dance class, keeping the weights constant on the muscle strengthening machines, or doing the same set of exercises with a personal trainer. The repetitive nature of a routine makes exercise a chore that we don’t want to do – it just becomes too boring.

Recognising that your life is dull you are not dealing with highly stressful situations which may trigger your emotional emotional response Switch your mindset from boredom to serenity can save a dieter hundreds of extra calories.

Eating as a way of filling time can be replaced with a multitude of non-caloric activities. There is always some task that needs doing such as cleaning off your desk, throwing away singleton socks or earrings, cleaning out the litter box, sorting through clothes that no longer fit or are wearable or sweeping out the garage. Today there are more contemporary diversions: backing up your data, updating your contact list, deleting old emails and text messages, sorting through your picture gallery or downloading music, books, lectures or movies. An example is of a woman whose work required hours on the phone and she would stop herself from munching while she was on hold by painting designs on her fingernails. She told me that the advantage of this strategy was that wet nail polish prevented her from eating.

Exercise with a goal and it stops being boring. Golf players know this because they are forever working to perfect their stance, swing, hold, or footwork, and go on to play tomorrow’s game in the hope that it will be better than today’s. The same is true of any workout, be it walking on a treadmill, swimming laps or building muscles. Running or walking the same two miles every day over the same route is mind-numbing. Increasing your speed, however, switching from running to walking, increasing your distance or changing your route suddenly makes the workout a challenge. Many people go from couch potato to athlete by simply deciding to train for a race or charity bike ride. The easiest way to set a goal is to try a new activity, especially one at which you are not very good. Finding yourself finally able to lift heavier weights, swim additional laps or hit a tennis ball takes away boredom and replaces it with exhilaration.

A dull life can be a good space in which to deal with your relationship with food.



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