Saturday, July 5, 2008

Eating While Bored?

While taking one of my favorite nature walks, I got to thinking today (always dangerous) about boredom and how it fits into emotional eating. It seems that a lot of folks complain about eating because they are bored. I'm still not entirely sure that it's an emotion. It doesn't really fit in with the biggies like anger, fear, or joy. It really seems to be more the lack of something, and specifically something interesting to look at, or do, or think about. As of late, I am very rarely bored. There's too much out there that piques my curiosity - books to read, things to write about, walks to take, birds to watch. Filling your stomach instead of filling your mind seems a poor substitute, and yet it sure does seem to be commonplace.

I've been doing a little web searching to find what other folks have said about boredom, and have found it interesting. (Thank God, because you wouldn't want it to be boring!) There seems to be a distinction between the type of boredom that is experienced during a long meeting, driving or a performing a repetitive task and the more long-term sort where you can't find something to do that you enjoy doing. Being stuck in the latter implies a more deep-seated dissatisfaction with your life, maybe a lack of meaning.

A couple of interesting quotes that shed additional light: "Opinion seems divided on whether boredom is an emotion. It is often seen as a feeling of anxiety stimulated by a lack of engagement in what one is doing. Boredom is not passive surrender or indifference. It is an active feeling of irritability and restlessness. This unpleasant feeling is related to anxiety and it usually leads to doing something to relieve the boredom. We look for meaning, to that which interests us."

And "The silence which occurs when no thinking takes place is alarming to the ego. This ego’s fear can be manifest as boredom, a signal that the ego is no longer being entertained. A need to eliminate the boredom then sets in and we resume our hunt for distraction. The distraction may be television, food, emotional outburst, negative behavior, obsessive involvement with a hobby, excessive running, being a couch potato or walking around announcing that we are bored as if the universe really was going to do something about our internal state of affairs, or as if someone other than we ourselves are responsible for what we feel... Boredom is closely associated with depression."

So, what to do about it overeating triggered by boredom? First and foremost - figure out if you are actually hungry. Is your stomach growling, and it's been awhile since you last ate? If so, eat! If not, dig in to the feeling - is it the temporary type of boredom? Are you stuck doing that repetitive task - add some music, find ways to "improve your task performance", indulge in active daydreaming. Pull out some old "dieters tricks" if you must put something in your mouth by making yourself herb tea, chewing gum, crunching on celery sticks. This boredom will be over with soon. If you find yourself experiencing the deep dissatisfaction of not having anything you love to do, you've got more work to do. Here is where I think we need to cultivate curiosity - what have you been interested in that you haven't had the time to investigate. Here you are, bored with nothing to do - now's as good a time as any.

Also, getting off our butts and out of the house into the great outdoors is a great way to counteract boredom. Take a walk, count how many different kinds of birds you can see (or dog breeds or pick your interest). Once you're back, if you're actually hungry for food, eat!
Last, this seems like another opportunity for looking within and examining our inner world and working out what we really want that will be satisfying. Oh yes, easier said than done, but so rewarding! It's just like figuring out what we want to eat - how hungry am I right now? What will satisfy that hunger?

(P.S. Turn off your TV! Better yet, give it away or have it die an early, unnatural death.)


Crabby McSlacker said...

Definitely NOT a boring post!

As a kid or a teenager, I used to have more of that "nothing sounds fun" kind of boredom, where I couldn't even imagine what I wanted to be doing. Now, if I'm bored it's more the kind where I'm stuck doing something I don't want to, and I generally know it will be over soon.

MizFit said...

and that so resonates with me.
filling the stomach instead of filling the mind.

is that america's problem in a nutshell?

not a boring post at all!