Why boredom may be making you crave unhealthy foods

Let’s see – if you’re feeling bored which food are you more likely to choose, chips or carrot sticks?  There’s a very good chance the chip bag will be the food of choice. This is the conclusion from the annual conference of the British Psychological Society. Researchers have shown when we become bored we crave fatty and sugary foods. 

We’ve all been bored at one time or another.  The feeling of boredom is hard to describe as it can vary depending on circumstances.  Think of a time when sitting in a classroom and the teacher is droning on and on about a topic you’re not interested in.  That’s boredom.  Or when you have nothing in particular to do or your day has become dull or tedious, you feel bored.

Now it looks like being bored is bad when it comes to making healthy food choices.

The British study wanted to put to the test how boredom affects people’s food choices by conducting two studies.  In the first study, 52 participants filled out a questionnaire on their food preferences before and after completing a boring task of repeatedly copying the same group of letters.

The second study had 45 participants watch either a boring or funny video.  While watching the videos, they were offered a range of healthy and unhealthy snacks.  To determine which foods were preferred, the bowls of food were weighed before and after each trial to see which snack food had been eaten the most.

The results from the first study showed when people are doing a boring task they prefer unhealthy foods like sweets and fast food.  The second studies results showed those watching the boring video ate far more unhealthy foods. 

The lead investigator, Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, stated, “These results are in line with previous research suggesting that we crave fatty and sugary foods when we are bored.  This strengthens the theory that boredom is related to low levels of the stimulating brain chemical dopamine and that people try to boost this by eating fat and sugar if they cannot alleviate boredom in some other way.”

Basically, it’s highly unlikely people who are bored won’t be choosing bananas, broccoli or Brussel sprouts to relive their state of dullness. 

Since we all experience boredom at one time or another, what can a person do to not make unwise food choices?  The key is to find activities in your life that stimulate your brain helping to remove boredom which helps you make healthier food choices.  Here are strategies to keep boredom at bay by keeping you engaged in invigorating activities:

·         Get rid of junk food

Buying foods high in fat and sugar will only tempt you when bored.  Purge your pantry ofthese foods, then when boredom strikes, you won’t have those foods around to fall back on to eat.

·         Make a list of enjoyable activities

If you have nothing planned for the day that can spell disaster if the feeling of boredom creeps into your head.  Not that you have to be doing something at every moment, but do have ideas for fun activities to buffer yourself from using food as your “go to” boredom cure.

·         Break up your daily routine

Monotony throughout the day can be a big boredom booster.  Routines can be good but if each day is always the same with little to no variety, boredom sets in quickly, setting you up to seek out more pleasure by eating the wrong foods.  Break up your routine by switching up where you eat – eat in a different room or go outside for a new change of pace.  Use different tableware or set your table in an attractive and inviting way stimulating your creativity.  Buy a cookbook using healthy recipes and plan out for the week a menu of diverse healthy foods you’ve never tried before.  When you give your brain different types of stimulation you’ll find boredom can be beaten back.