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3 Tips to Tell if You're Bored or Hungry

Work has been a little slow for me lately, and since I work from home, a couple of times I’ve found myself wandering into the kitchen and wondering if I should eat something. I know I’m not really hungry, but at the same time, eating would give me something to do.

You may have experienced this type of situation, too. After all, boredom is one of the big triggers for people to eat when they’re not hungry.

Of course, you can be both bored and hungry, so how can you tell? And what if you want to eat anyway even though you’re not particularly hungry?

Here are a few tips that can help.

Check your physical hunger cues

The classic symptom of physical hunger is a growling stomach, but that’s not the only physical symptom. If your blood sugar is low, you might have a headache, feel irritable, or even be light-headed. You might also have an empty feeling in your stomach instead of hearing any growling.

If you think you might want to eat out of boredom, a good thing to do is step away from the food and check in with your body. Do you feel any of those physical hunger symptoms?

Also notice if almost anything sounds good to eat or if you’re focused on a particular food. If you’d turn down a piece of fruit (something you like but don’t love) or a type of food that you normally consider somewhat boring, odds are you’re not truly hungry.

Find something else to do

A good way to tell if you want to eat out of boredom is to give yourself something else to do, something that you enjoy.

This can be something short, like watching a funny video, listening to a favorite song, going for a 5-10 minute walk, working on a crossword puzzle, or whatever else makes sense for you. The goal is to engage your attention for long enough to stop thinking about food.

If you work from home like me, and you have pets, this could also be patting or playing with your pets for a little bit. The key is to not let them completely take over your workday – although mine sometimes like to try. But playing with the cats is a good option because it always makes me smile and lifts my spirits, making it less likely for me to remain bored.

Me with my cat Fezzik

By the time you’re done, you might not even be thinking about food anymore. If you are, and you still want to eat as much as you did before, it may make sense to eat a small amount and then see where you’re at.

Connect with someone

A great way to snap yourself out of boredom is to reach out to someone else. Admittedly, if you’re in the middle of work – or the other person is in the middle of work – it’s not a good time for a long conversation.

But you could send someone a quick email or text just to say you’re thinking of them, or to share a quick note about anything interesting or funny from your day. Even if the other person can’t immediately respond, the act of reaching out alone can shift your mood.

If you’re not at work, you could FaceTime with someone, give them a call, or see if they’re up for a walk or some other activity. That type of interaction will give you a lot more to focus on, and you’ll know pretty quickly if you’re truly hungry or if you just wanted food to pass the time.

It’s okay to eat anyway

Eating when you’re not hungry has its drawbacks, especially if you eat a lot and then end up feeling sick to your stomach or need to take a nap.

But the reality is, all of us eat sometimes for reasons other than physical hunger, and that’s okay. The real goal here is to understand why you’re eating and make it a conscious decision.

If you know that you’re bored and you decide to eat anyway, make the most of it by eating something you really like and being mindful while you eat so you can enjoy it more fully.

Or if you decide to do something other than eat, pay attention to what works best to help shift your attention so you can remember that in the future. And who knows, you may even find a new hobby or some inspiration!


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