Even now, several years into my recovery from Binge-Eating Disorder, I still have to ask myself the following question before I start eating: “Am I eating because I’m hungry or just because I’m bored?” There are several feelings and situations that trigger hunger in me. Boredom (sometimes self-imposed) is one of the more regular ones. So, how do I know whether I’m truly hungry or just bored? Well, I take a look at what’s going on.
Below are some questions I ask myself. You could try asking yourself them, too, next time you’re reaching for food when it may be other stimulation you need:
1. Have I eaten recently? (“Recently” for me means within the last two hours; I find that eating small meals throughout the day has gotten my body onto a schedule such that every 2-3 hours my stomach rumbles to remind me it’s time to eat something again.)
If “yes”, then the hungry feeling is probably not physical. It could be due to boredom (or one of my other trigger situations or feelings). Go to question 2!
If “no”, I prepare myself a small snack, eat it mindfully, and wait about a half hour before deciding whether that was enough food to satiate the hungry feeling.
2. Am I mentally stimulated right now? (“Stimulated” for me means actively engaged in an activity–sometimes reading is engaging enough for me, but more often it has to be something like writing or having an in-depth conversation with someone.)
If “no”, I’m probably about to eat out of boredom. Instead, I can consider starting an engaging activity.
If “yes”, my hungry feeling isn’t related to physical need or boredom. I try to note how I’m feeling. Anxiety often triggers hunger. If I’m anxious, I try to find ways to deal with it (meditating, quiet deep breathing, and listening to soothing music are my favorite ways to relax).
Obviously, this is not an exact science! It’s just a way to become more mindful of our emotional and physical states, with the aim of eating more mindfully, as well.
Peace, joy, and health!