Soothe yourself without food. What to do instead of eating

  • 2 Minutes Read
Joanna Kriehn
Joanna Kriehn, MS, RDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

Ever wonder when you're stressed out or bored what to do instead of eating? Do you turn to food for reasons outside of physical hunger? Take control and learn new strategies to help you reach your weight-loss goals.

What to do instead of eating

Tame your mental hunger when you are not sure what to do instead of eating

If you find that you turn to food when you are bored, try shifting your attention by doing something else:

Are you truly hungry? Then honor your body and have a small snack

So you tried distracting yourself by cleaning the bathroom, dancing to your favorite song, and playing fetch with your dog, now what? If you are positively hungry, prepare a balanced snack for yourself. Check out these nutritious and easy-to-prepare snacks.
Immune-boosting snacks
10 smart snack ideas
Snacks between 50-200 calories

Engage in gentle movement instead of snacking when bored

Sometimes moving around or simply shifting your perspective can get your mind off snacking. Plus, did you know that the average American sits for 6.5 hours every day? Do something healthy for your body and mind by moving more during the day. Try taking a 5-minute walk (even around your house) for every 45 minutes of sitting. At the end of a long day at the computer, try doing some stretching or yoga instead of snacking. Yoga helps center the mind, connect to the breath, and release tension through movement.

Instead of eating, tap into mindfulness

Instead of eating as a way to unwind, here's what to do: make a concerted effort to set aside time to eat, enjoying the taste, texture, and experience of eating. Mindfulness is defined as a mental state of focusing one's attention on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. When under stress, many people eat quickly, ignoring the experience. By putting your screens away, slowing down, and savoring your meal, you'll be able to appreciate what you are eating and get in touch with hunger and fullness. Many people find that if they slow down and remain mindful of their meal, they feel full on less, which provides a better foundation for weight loss.

Stop mindless snacking by shifting your habits

If you want to change your habits, you must first become aware of them, and then identify how these habits are impacting your health goals. This newfound awareness can be a decisive first step to help you to stop snacking when bored.

You may find it helpful to keep track of your eating habits with a tracking app. By committing to keeping track of what you are eating and drinking, you'll naturally become more aware and potentially think twice before taking a bite! Look for patterns by taking time to review your food choices every day. Do you tend to snack in the afternoon when working on the computer? Do you find you reach for something crunchy when watching TV? Do you snack more on days when you are busy and don't prioritize balanced meals? Here's some more information on how to make small habit changes that support weight loss.

Be kind to yourself, and find help when needed

For some people, eating outside of physical hunger may be interfering with their ability to live a healthy and fulfilling life. If you or someone you know needs professional help for emotional eating, support exists, especially when it evolves into binge eating and/or an eating disorder. Please seek out professional help if you suspect that you use food in a way that is harmful to your health or prevents you from meeting important health goals. Chronic stress, isolated high-stress events, and a history of trauma and abuse may impact your ability to handle emotional eating. Here are some trusted resources to find help.

Licensed therapists

Registered dietitians

Adapted from original content by Katherine Isacks, MPS, RDN, CDE

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Weight Loss->Emotional & Mindful Eating
Oct 5, 2020

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