How to Stop Yourself Eating from Boredom

By Ali Luke

People who struggle with their weight are often prone to “emotional eating”, consuming food as a response to mental triggers rather than physical hunger.

Often, dieters fail to lose weight not because their diet plan itself is flawed, but because they are knocked off course by feeling stressed, tired, upset or bored.

The last of these is an especially common cue for many people to eat.

For some, it’s a habit learned in childhood (“I’m bored, mum!” – “Run down to the shop and buy yourself a candy bar, then.”)

For others, it’s a reaction to the dull parts of adult life: munching on biscuits while rocking the baby to sleep, or getting yet another handful of chocolates because the afternoon is really dragging at work.

Avoid Snacking When You’re Bored

When you find yourself thinking, “I’m bored, maybe I’ll have a cookie,” then get straight out of that mindset:

  • If you’re genuinely hungry, have some fruit or a small sandwich.
  • Cravings can be beaten, just by sitting them out. Force yourself to wait 20 minutes before getting that snack, and nine times out of ten, you’ll no longer want it.
  • Find something to do – ideally, an activity that makes it hard to eat at the same time.

Understanding Your Danger Points

Keep a food diary for a couple of weeks, and write down not only what you ate and when, but why you ate. (Hunger, because friends were eating, because it was lunch-time, boredom, stress..?)

When are you most likely to eat from boredom? Maybe it’s when you have to hang around at home, waiting for a delivery. Or perhaps it’s when you get in from work and you’re waiting for your partner to come home. Once you’ve figured out the pattern, work out how to change it!

  • Find a hobby or interest to occupy you, if you’ve got too much time on your hands
  • Use those “hanging around” moments, to blitz through all the little jobs you keep putting off (cleaning the oven, anyone?)
  • If you’re regularly twiddling your thumbs at work, see if there’s a stressed colleague who could use your help.

What are your tips for avoiding boredom-induced snacking?

Editor’s Note: For many people – simple behaviorism (‘try-harder’) doesn’t help when it comes to powerful cravings or addictions – in such situations other methods such as cognitive behavior therapy can be useful. Some cravings may also have a biochemical dimension which can be addressed.


  1. Amanda

    This is what I have learned in college:

    Only buy and snack on something you have to prepare like popcorn you have to pop in a pan, a melon you have to slice before you eat it, or cookie dough you have to bake before you eat it.( not pre-made) Then you need actual motivation to make them and its not completely mindless when you are eating it.

  2. Anne

    I’ll be going into high school in a year and I really want to become skinnier. I am aware that it will help in my confidence and possibly make me feel more pretty or wanted, but I’m also aware that I need to lose weight to become healthier. I skip out on swimming because I can’t find I suit that is flattery and hides my belly, I binge because I feel fat and ugly, I stress over peoples opinions of me and I just can’t keep myself from eating. I really want to stop. I also do sports during the school year but then I eat more by using the excuse that I just came from an athletic activity. Any advice?

    • Ashley

      I was just like you when I was your age. I felt fat, frumpy and like no one would like me. All of that nonsense is crap. If I knew back then what I know now, I was not the fat, frumpy girl I thought I was. It was all in my head. I am still struggling with this bc I let my self believe it for so long, that now I am actually over weight and unhealthy. So, put those thoughts aside, because they are not true. You dont need to be skinny to be all those things you want to be. Who cares if you dont think you look good in a swim suit. Swimming burns more calories than running and puts you on the path to being healthier. If I lost a pound for every time I didn’t do something b/c I was self conscious about my weight, I would be skinny. Be who you want to be, and if you feel that you are not that person, take whatever steps neccessary to be that person now. It will be uncomfortable, and you wont like it, and it will be hard. But ask yourself what is harder? being uncomfortable for a few minutes till you realize its not a big deal and the thoughts in your head where wrong or being selfconscious, uncomfortable, and afraid to be who you want to be physically and mentally for the rest of your life? Pick your hard.

  3. NM

    Help, I too do this. I bought healthier snacks to take to work because there are always cookies and candies there. I would snack continuously. But now I find I am eating my healthier snacks contiunuously too. How do I stop. I tried gum and water. It doesn’t help 🙁

  4. AlleyPies!

    I started mindless eating when I was with a friend I met in school. He is extremely nice and always makes an intention of treating me to food. After spending that much time with him and also buying junk food and snacks outside (I had the money from working), I did not realize how quickly I was gaining weight.. probably about 5-6 pounds in less than three months.

    This was all from large portion sizes, Halal food cart food, pizza and soda everyday after school, a huge egg and cheese bagel for breakfast, and a chicken burger with french fries with soda for lunch, then after school I would either get Chinese, Turkish, or Mexican takeout.

    I would also get an egg, cheese and turkey bacon bagel at a Deli or McDonald’s tray breakfast or go to iHop almost every weekend.

    Sometimes my friend has trouble finish eating certain foods and I would always eat the leftovers like nothing. Then I indulged in all kinds of cupcakes, Twinkies, cakes, potato chips.

  5. Az

    I have spent my life trying to find an answer to this problem,I managed to keep my weight off for three years,and then some problems came up that I couldnt handle.Boom my weight shot up and I struggle every day to get back to that same motivation.During the day Im fine,as soon as I sit in front of the tv I start eating all the junk food I can find.I suppose if you do the same thing every day you are going to get the same result.Just by reading all the comments shows we are all in the same boat so,I resolve to have my sketch book ready in the evening,when I am watching my favourit soaps I will get my next painting sketched,and stay off the junk.How about taking up knitting,or use the stepper in front of the tv,or cross trainer.Something that distracts you from eating.Good luck everyone.