This is a continuation of the article from the March 19th Weights and Balances Newsletter.
Scientifically speaking, eating when bored is believed to be associated with the brain needing more “dopamine” (neuro-transmitter) to feel excited and stimulated. Scientist believes that eating releases this neurotransmitter. This is the same stimulus/response that will enable some to easily become addicted to drugs and alcohol. When we are eating when bored, it appears this is our “substance of choice” to try to wake up our dopamine transmitters in our brains. How many of us associate good feelings/good times with eating?
Why do we eat when we are not hungry?
- It’s a special occasion, find other ways to celebrate special occasions without focusing on food
- Avoid buffets and eating just because “it is there” Do not purchase foods which you have a difficult time eating a reasonable portion
- Don’t start eating just because everyone else is eating!
- Being tired can often lead to overeating; don’t eat at midnight; just go to bed!
- Eating because it is FREE or cheap
- Because you can’t say no
- Because you were raised to clean your plate
What can I do to instead of eating when I get bored?
- Keeping a food journal – write down what you are feeling before you eat, are you really hungry or thirsty, keep dates and times when you feel “driven” to eat too, rate your feeling of hunger from one to ten!
- Breathing exercises
- Read a good book
- Watching a favorite movie
- Listening to a favorite band
- Treating yourself to a new something
- Refrain from seeking pleasure all the time
- Become familiar with what triggers you to eat (patterns) and set up a plan ahead of time on how to deal with it in more productive way!
- Take a walk!
- Take a bubble bath
- Call a friend
- Solve a crossword puzzle
- Play cards or a board game
- Write a card to someone who is sick or shut in
- Find something to do with your hands; needlework, manicure, typing, writing, playing an instrument
- Clean your room!
- Do the laundry
- Plan your next vacation
- Organize your closet/drawers/garage
- Chew a piece of gum
- Write a blog
- Volunteer in your community/church
- Learn relaxation exercises
- Participate in individual and/or group counseling
I think the point is do ANYTHING productive but eat when you are bored!
I have begun to try ask myself the following when I find myself driven to eat when I am not really hungry.
- I ask myself, why do I want to eat now?
- Am I really hungry?
- Am I really thirsty?
- Am I felling bored?
- Am I felling angry?
- Am I feeling upset?
- Am I feeling lonely?
- Am I feeling tired?
- What do I want to eat right now?
- Do I want something specific?
- Do I want something salty?
- Do I want something Sweet
- I have found myself also asking after starting to eat something I really wanted, how much am I enjoying this?
- Slow down, take your time
- Rate your enjoyment from 1-10
- How full am I?
- Chew thoroughly
- Eat slowly
- Rate your fullness from 1-10
- Why did I eat all that?
- Make notes and notice patterns and triggers (work, arguments, etc.)
- Get to the bottom of why you did it (anxiety, stress, boredom, etc.)
- Be honest with yourself!
- Don’t beat yourself up; move on!
It is hard to face that you have some bad habits; but eating out of boredom is that. Time to overcome! Time to make more positive changes! This is the first in a series on breaking bad habits when trying to lose weight.
At one time or another we have all over eaten. But there are other levels for overeating that can cause long-term health issues. Dr. Daniel Amen is a world-renown neuropsychiatrist who has devoted his career to researching over-eaters and why we do it to ourselves. The basis for over-eating can be a symptom of a much larger problem that we are not resolving in a productive manner. To determine what is the cause of our over-eating we have to look deep within ourselves and be prepared to face what might not be some not so pretty things about ourselves. Some are very self-aware and can do this soul-searching on their own but many of us need the guidance of someone who is trained to deal with these issues.
Are there effective strategies for overcoming overeating?
Here is a short list of some strategies which through his research Dr. Amen has discovered to work for over-eaters.
- Balance blood sugar levels – low blood sugar levels are often associated with food cravings (This made sense to me with so many times knowing that diabetics “crave” sugar/carbs- There have been several eating plans based on the Glycemic Index and this has proven to help many lose and maintain weight loss. )
- Decrease the use of artificial sweeteners– most sweeteners are 600 times sweeter than sugar and can cause you to crave more food and more sugar (I have wondered about the long-term effects of these sweeteners on our brains and the constant “tricking” that goes on, do we crave more and more to keep “tricking” our brain to thinking it is getting the “sweet” sensation which is counter-productive of reducing what we take inside?)
- Manage Stress– chronic stress can cause obesity, addiction, anxiety, disorders and cancer (I know personally that is easier to over-eat when stressed since you want to trigger the “positive” feelings associated with the food in trying to overcome the uncomfortable feelings associated with stress and anxiety.)
- Outsmart Your Environmental “Triggers”– the mall, the airport, the movie theater, family gatherings; eat before you go or bring healthy snacks with you to consume. (I think this is such an awesome strategy! I have found it to be effective for me. Taking dishes to potlucks, etc. that you know are healthy choices help alleviate the anxiety of the unknown food you might encounter too!)
- Discover Hidden Food Allergies– allergies can trigger cravings; reduced blood flow to the brain and cause brain inflammation or inflammations inside the body. (I have a lactose intolerance/sensitivity and have noticed that when I eat dairy based foods that it causes the bloating/inflammation that can be accompanied by other not so pleasant sensations.)
- Practice Willpower – say no to the things which are not healthy for you; it gets easier! (This is the simplest but the hardest to do. I call this “won’t” power; I won’t eat this or that! It does get easier in time!)
- Movement in your Daily Routine-This helps to overcome genetic predispositions to obesity; reduces cravings; and reduces stress. (This is so true! The more I can walk/workout the less stress I feel and my body released those positive endorphins that keep me smiling.)
- Catch your Zz’s!– less sleep equals more cravings! (If you are tired, it is easy to overeat as your judgment is not at its peak/clearest thinking! Not getting enough rest can inhibit or even stop weight loss.)
- Natural Supplements – Supplements can help to take the edge off cravings. (I am not familiar with many of the supplements he suggests, so I cannot really comment on this.)
This is general information which I hope to explore further in the future. Knowledge is power and if we can recognize certain issues we have with overeating within ourselves then we can begin to use effective strategies to overcome our overeating.