Eaten up by Boredom: Why we Eat When we are Bored

Have you ever felt empty and turned to food just to escape the feeling and fill the void within or because you have nothing better to do?

You’re not alone. 

In fact, almost everyone has experienced this at some point in their lives. Studies observe that people eat when they feel bored to escape self-awareness of negative states. As a result, they typically choose unhealthy foods.

But…why do we feel bored, anyway?

Have you ever wondered why we feel bored in the first place?

From a completely unscientific personal viewpoint, I think humans get bored because they cannot escape the situation they are currently in and do what they actually want to do.

Another school of thought says that ‘being bored’ is a classic first-world problem. That is, if you are someone who works day and night to make ends meet, the word ‘bored’ wouldn’t even exist in your dictionary.

So why do we eat when we are bored? 

Boredom eating is a form of emotional eating (vs mindful eating).

Emotional eating is when you eat anything in sight and have cravings for various (mainly unhealthy) types of food. It leaves you feeling guilty for consuming too many calories, more than you actually need. This can be due to what is referred to as emotional hunger. 

Emotional Hunger is when you think you are hungry due to stress, happiness, or boredom. This is different from true hunger. True hunger starts gradually, any type of food will satisfy the hunger, you will be able to stop eating when you feel full and won’t experience guilt after.

Eating when bored also serves as a quick coping mechanism because snacking breaks up the monotony of our boredom, raising our levels of dopamine and providing a short-lived high. 

How to cope with boredom eating

1. Realize you are not actually hungry

The first thing is to realize that you are not actually hungry and are only eating because you are bored. You want to eat because you are idle and have nothing else to do. Therefore, one way to prevent this from happening is to stay busy. Go to the gym, go to your friend’s room, or hangout outside. You may not realize it, but even the tiniest change in your lifestyle can decrease emotional eating.

Trying to stop emotional eating is not about having the most willpower, but more about finding alternatives to eating. It is important to expand your options and keep busy.

2. Make Sure You’re Eating Enough Protein and Fat

While cookies may satisfy you momentarily, you’re going to be hungry in an hour. By eating foods with healthy amounts of protein and fat, you will stay full longer and your attention will not be fixed on what your next snack will be. This means eating foods like nuts, yogurt, eggs, etc. 

3. Drink (More) Water

Many times we tend to confuse thirst for hunger. Symptoms of dehydration resemble the signs of hunger because the same part of the brain interprets both hunger and thirst stimuli. Talk about getting mixed signals, amirite? Before you start opening the fridge for the 3rd time, try drinking a glass of water and waiting for 15 minutes. If the feeling of supposed “hunger” subsides, then you were just thirsty. If not, you’re probably hungry. Permission to snack: granted.


The bottom line is yes everybody eats when they are bored. Studies say that this happens because “boredom increases eating in an attempt to distract from this experience, especially among people high in objective self-awareness.” But, you can combat this. Keep your lifestyle busy and active. If you still find yourself in your room and wanting to snack all the time, make sure you have healthy snacks available to you. It’s ok to enjoy some chips occasionally, but nobody wants to gain excess weight and feel guilty after eating!