Best Tips To Stop Boredom and Binging Eating
We’ve all been there – you have the afternoon off, so you pass the time by binge-watching Netflix and snacking. At some point, you may have actually been hungry, but for the most part, you were bored eating during your binge-watching session.
Many of us are guilty of boredom eating, but for some of us, the problem can escalate to binge eating disorder.
But what exactly is binge eating disorder? Read on to learn more about this issue, why it’s different from boredom eating and how to stop binging eating.
What Is Binging Eating Disorder?
Binging eating disorder, or BED, is a serious eating disorder in which you consume large amounts of food. Those with BED often feel like they can’t stop eating.
Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. It affects about 1.25% of adult women and 0.42% of adult men.
We all overeat on occasion. We may go for a second or even a third helping of a meal. However, for individuals with BED, overeating becomes excessive and frequent. Episodes of binge eating are often accompanied by feelings of shame and guilt.
Many individuals with BED want to learn how to stop binging eating, but sometimes, dieting leads to more binge eating.
In some ways, BED is similar to bulimia nervosa (although they are not the same). Those with BED may try to “make up” for their binge eating episodes by vowing to eat healthy or “punishing” themselves. They may put themselves on an overly restrictive diet or go on sporadic fasts after dieting.
Causes and Risk Factors
Experts still don’t know what causes binge eating disorder, but genetics, mental health issues and long-term dieting issues can increase your risk.
Other risk factors can include:
When a person has unmet needs, this can also increase the risk of binge eating. Unmet needs can be:
For example, you may feel like you aren’t being seen or heard by family and friends. Maybe your career is unfulfilling, or you feel socially isolated. All of these scenarios can increase the risk of binge eating disorder.
For some individuals, food insecurity triggers a survival instinct to seek out and hold food. For example, children who grow up in unstable homes may hoard or hide food and binge eat in secret.
Individuals who have a history of food insecurity are at a greater risk of BED when food becomes secure.
Binge Eating Disorder Vs Boredom Eating
Is there really a difference between BED and boredom eating? Yes, but the line is a fine one, and it can be a slippery slope from boredom to binging.
There are quite a few differences between binge eating and boredom eating. One of the biggest differences is emotion.
- With BED, some people feel euphoric during a binge followed by feelings of shame and guilt.
- With boredom eating, you’re eating because you’re bored (essentially, a state of no emotions). You’re not excited or depressed. You don’t feel guilt or shame after boredom eating.
Boredom simply means that you’re not experiencing any pleasure or enjoyment in the moment. As humans, we’re designed to seek out pleasure – it’s how we’ve survived for so long. We eat, dopamine is released, we feel good, and so we do it again.
When we’re bored, we’re seeking out that dopamine balance, which can lead us to eat junk food (or any type of food) when we’re not even hungry.
Binge Eating Disorder Symptoms Vs Boredom Eating
Binge eating disorder and boredom eating have similar symptoms, but BED also has some unique symptoms that differentiate it from boredom eating.
Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
- Eating an abnormally large amount of food over a short period of time
- Eating even when you don’t feel hungry
- Feeling like you can’t stop eating
- Eating rapidly
- Feeling ashamed or guilty about your eating
- Eating until you feel uncomfortably full
- Frequently eating in secret or alone
- Fear of disapproval from friends and family
Symptoms of Boredom Eating
- You need to eat when you consume media
- You’re not sure what you want to eat (e.g., staring into the refrigerator looking for something to snack on)
- You’re eating when you’re not hungry and just want something to do
- You’re eating until you feel uncomfortably full
With boredom eating, you likely won’t feel guilt or shame after you eat.
Both BED and boredom eating are concerning. Binge eating disorder can lead to serious complications, and boredom eating can also sabotage your health.
If you’re struggling with your eating habits, you may be wondering how to stop binging eating naturally and in a healthy way.
Related: Raw Food Diet – 7 Days Diet Plan
Ways To Stop Binging Eating (Natural)
If you suspect that you have BED or already have a diagnosis, you may be wondering how to stop binging eating. First, it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations and consider working with a therapist.
If you do decide to make diet, exercise or other lifestyle changes, consult with your doctor first.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is, at the moment, the best supported and most researched treatment for BED.
It’s important to remember that in addition to therapy and other treatments recommended by your doctor, you can also make lifestyle changes that will support your treatment.
Here are some natural ways to help stop binge eating habits:
Don’t Skip Meals
If you’re struggling with binge eating, try to avoid skipping meals. Research has shown that following a regular eating pattern can help reduce the risk of binge eating later on in the day. Why? Because your body isn’t desperate for nutrition.
Let’s say that you skip breakfast and wait until 2-3 pm to eat your first meal. When it’s finally time to eat, you’re so hungry that you overeat to compensate.
So, try not to skip meals, especially breakfast. Instead, space your meals 3-4 hours apart to keep your energy levels up and reduce the temptation to binge eat.
Increase Your Fiber Intake
Increasing your fiber intake can help you feel fuller for longer, which may reduce the risk of binge eating later in the day.
Foods that are rich in fiber include:
- Whole grains
- Lean meats
Steer clear of refined sugars, grains and processed foods that will leave you feeling hungry shortly after eating.
Staying hydrated can also help reduce overeating and curb cravings. Hydration is important for your overall health, but it can also help boost your metabolism and give you an energy boost.
Exercise to Reduce Stress
For many people with BED, stress is a trigger that can lead to a binging episode. Proper stress management can help, and exercise is an excellent way to manage your stress.
A recent study found that aerobic exercise combined with short bouts of high-intensity exercise helped decrease binge-eating episodes in women with BED.
Find a physical activity that you enjoy doing, whether it’s walking, swimming, running, biking or playing sports.
Yoga can also help reduce stress levels while providing other physical health benefits.
Get Enough Sleep
Did you know that sleep affects your appetite and hunger levels? When you’re sleep deprived, you’re more likely to binge eat.
One study found that people with BED reported more symptoms of insomnia than people without a history of BED.
Other research has found a link between sleep deprivation and higher levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and lower levels of leptin (the hormone that makes you feel full).
Overall, sleeping less than 8 hours a night is associated with a higher body weight. So, make sleep a priority. Aiming to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night will not only help reduce the urge to binge eat, but it will also support your overall health and well-being.
Related: 7 Days Insulin Resistance Diet Plan
Ways To Stop Eating When You Are Bored
If you don’t have BED but you’re struggling with boredom eating, you can also take steps to become more mindful of your habits and make positive changes.
Here’s how to stop binging eating when you’re bored:
Get and Stay Active
When you’re bored, your body will seek out pleasure to get that dopamine release it wants. Exercise can help raise your dopamine levels naturally, so you may not even feel the urge to eat when you’re bored.
Cure Boredom with Productive Activities
If you’re only eating because you’re bored, then try replacing your boredom eating habit with something more productive.
Exercising or going for a walk is a great option. But you can also:
- Engage in a hobby
- Read a book
- Learn a new skill
- Talk to a friend
You can also try embracing boredom. It’s perfectly normal and okay to experience boredom from time to time. In fact, allowing yourself to be bored has some benefits, like increased creativity.
Challenge Your Brain
Finding ways to challenge your brain with new activities every day can also help elevate your dopamine levels without turning to food.
There are many ways to challenge your brain:
- Do crossword puzzles
- Learn a new language
- Read books
- Learn new skills
- Learn a new hobby
- Play an instrument
Challenging your brain will help keep your dopamine levels up, and it will offer many other benefits. For example, picking up a new hobby can also provide you with a healthy activity to engage in when you’re bored instead of eating.
Although they are two different things, binge eating disorder and boredom eating are both issues that should be addressed sooner rather than later.
Many people eat when they’re bored, but for some, it’s a slippery slope that can easily lead to binge eating disorder. The tips above can help you start adopting healthy habits while working with your healthcare providers to address the root cause of the issue.