Boredom eating is real. Especially now when many of us are housebound due to the pandemic. Many people struggle with boredom eating, or eating to pass the time — even if they’re not truly hungry. In fact, boredom eating and other forms of emotional eating may contribute to excess weight gain.
This article from Healthline.com explains how to tell whether you’re hungry or bored, offers a guide to hunger triggers, and provides strategies to help stave off boredom eating and emotional eating.
What is hunger?
Hunger can be difficult to define, as it involves a complex interplay of hormones, biochemical processes, and physical reactions. Generally speaking, there are two types of hunger — physical and psychological.
Physical hunger can be defined as your body’s drive to eat for survival, while psychological hunger is based more on cravings or external cues.
This type is true hunger, in which your body needs food so it can create more energy. With this type of hunger, your stomach feels empty and may rumble. You may also have hunger pangs. If you don’t eat, you may experience low blood sugar levels and feel weak, unfocused, or fatigued.
Boredom Eating Satisfies Psychological Hunger
Psychological hunger occurs when you have a desire to eat but feel no physical signs that your body needs food. It may manifest as a craving for dessert despite feeling full from a meal, or a desire for a specific item or type of food. Contrast this sensation with physical hunger, which can be satisfied by any food at all.
Psychological hunger triggers
Whereas physical hunger is triggered by an empty stomach and driven by your body’s need to procure more energy, many factors play into psychological hunger. Boredom eating may not only occur as a result of boredom but also various triggers outlined below. For example, stress, poor sleep, and easy access to junk foods may make you more likely to eat out of boredom.
Here are some of the most common psychological hunger triggers.
Boredom is one trigger for psychological hunger. In fact, boredom eating may be even more common than other types of emotional eating, such as stress eating. Additionally, people who are prone to boredom may be more likely to overeat or emotionally eat.
Chronic mental stress may alter your hunger hormones, triggering food cravings. Such hormonal changes may cause people with excess weight to be more susceptible to stress-induced food cravings.
When people around you are eating or drinking, you may be more likely to do so — even if you’re not hungry. One small study in 65 college students found that those seated with someone who got a second helping of food were 65% more likely to get seconds themselves than those seated with someone who didn’t get seconds.
If you’ve ever had a food craving triggered by a television commercial, you know that advertising can be a powerful trigger for psychological hunger. In fact, some research suggests that advertisements depicting people eating are more likely to trigger cravings than other methods of showcasing food in ads.
Sleep may have a powerful effect on your eating habits. Some studies show that adults who don’t get enough sleep eat more calories, snack more, and are more likely to gain weight.
Certain highly processed items like potato chips, candy, and fast food are considered hyperpalatable. This means that they’re designed to taste delicious and immediately reward your brain. For this reason, many people struggle to regulate their intake of these foods — even when they’re not physically hungry.
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