Have you caught yourself opening and closing the refrigerator door or looking through the kitchen cupboard but really not feeling like eating anything in front of you? How about eating “just because” and when you aren’t necessarily hungry? Have you ever wondered if it’s hunger or something else? If so, learn more about how to tell if you are really hungry or just bored.
Managing your weight is a key to good health overall, but maintaining a healthy weight can be easier said than done. The key is focusing on the delicate balance between the food you eat and how your body uses that energy as fuel. We eat for many reasons—not only when we are hungry. Overeating is one reason people gain weight or struggle to maintain their weight. For some, eating is not really about eating. Sometimes, it’s related to our emotions.
Understanding the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger can take time and practice. One way to start looking at why you are eating is to understand the difference between hunger and appetite.
Take, for example, boredom. Boredom “is a discrete emotion that associates with feeling dissatisfied, restless, and unchallenged when one interprets actions and situations at the present time as purposeless.” It can serve as a way of redirecting one’s behavior away from the lack of meaning in the present moment.
It’s no secret that a lot of people eat when they are bored. According to some researchers, the excitement or stimulation of food can be used to create a sense of escape and cope with boredom.
The first step to getting your eating pattern under control is understanding it. If you find yourself eating when you’re bored, try some of these tips!
Healthy weight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated January 28, 2020. Accessed June 3, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/index.html
Emotional eating: Exploring the hunger inside. National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability. No date. Accessed June 3, 2020. https://www.nchpad.org/787/4169/Emotional~Eating~~Exploring~the~Hunger~Inside
What is overeating? How to control your portions. UPMC Health Beat. November 21, 2018. Accessed June 3, 2020. https://share.upmc.com/2018/11/portion-control-overeating
Moynihan AB, van Tilburg WA, Igou ER, Wisman A, Donnelly AE, Mulcaire JB. Eaten up by boredom: Consuming food to escape awareness of the bored self. Front Psychol. 2015;6:369. Published 2015 Apr 1. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.003695MOVE! Weight management program hunger and fullness. U.S .Department of Veteran Affairs. No date. Accessed June 3, 2020. https://www.move.va.gov/docs/NewHandouts/Nutrition/N04_HungerAndFullness.pdf
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