Psychology & nutrition: why do we eat out of boredom?

What is boredom?

Isabelle Siac. The first thing I thought of when I mentioned boredom was people who ate during the first lockdown because they were bored. There are also vacations. When we eat on vacation, is it because we’re bored or because we’re enjoying it? The border is tenuous.

People like to be on vacation, to have time to, for example, cook. But is it really fun? Or a way to relieve boredom? There is also another notion that comes to me, potentially more pathological, it is emptiness, filling the void, where boredom leads to eating, as an automatic response.

But be careful, we don’t necessarily eat because we’re bored, and just because we’re bored doesn’t mean we’ll eat in response.

Why do some people consistently eat in response to boredom?

IS. It’s very personal. Everyone has their own response to boredom.

When it comes to food, family culture is important. There are families in which, when we are on vacation, the first question we ask ourselves in the morning is “what are we going to eat this evening?” » So, we’re going to go to the market etc. It’s the day’s activity and then there’s the evening aperitif, a real ceremony. During the first confinement, this was seen very strongly. That’s the least pathological side, food occupies, it relaxes.

Emptiness, on the other hand, is part of the realm of insecurity. And so the boredom, at that moment, will rather be tinged with anxiety.

Why are we so afraid of boredom?

IS. Boredom is fought a lot in today’s society. For example, we keep children busy all the time. We don’t know how to be bored, so boredom is associated with anxiety. And as soon as there is anxiety, it must be filled and food is the easiest answer.

Boredom is potentially a factor of anxiety, because we have not been prepared to accept boredom, even to taste it. Since it’s bad to do nothing, we try to find something to do, so we go and eat because it’s an activity, but it’s even more guilt-inducing. I don’t know how to be bored so I eat, so it’s really bad!

This is one of the effects of the consumer society, which constantly tracks our desire, we are constantly baited, so if there is no more bait, we are lost. Boredom is both the enemy and the best friend of capitalism!

Many of my patients tell me that they can only eat while watching series, for example. They think “it’s bad to eat, so I prefer not to think about it too much”, so I watch a series, it goes together. When eating is also associated with gluttony then you should not think about it, not be in the present moment.

Are some profiles more sensitive to boredom than others?

IS. Boredom is vast. Once again, I think of the first confinement during which people were also bored by the lack of social connections, of meetings. If we cannot receive entertainment, attention from others, love or connection, we self-nourish. With boredom, you are alone with yourself. In a way, having food delivered is a way of receiving something from outside.

Compared to the different profiles of eaters, those who cannot stand boredom, I believe that these are profiles who are afraid of themselves.

This is how some people, especially single people, ordered a lot during the first confinement. Preparing food for yourself at home is of no interest and absolutely does not relieve boredom. While cooking is also a way of taking time and dreaming.

Isn’t the first action to implement awareness?

IS. People who eat out of boredom also eat when they are happy or sad. Everything is an excuse to eat. For all emotions, the answer is food.

Become aware, yes, but above all realize the anxiety that lies behind it. When you eat to escape the present moment, in general, food is a worry for you and you are aware of it.

On the other hand, where the link is not made is between boredom and anxiety. If we pull the thread, to be bored is to be passive, to endure. Being active is fundamental in the society in which we live. Doing nothing is worrying. Fortunately, there are also people for whom doing nothing and eating is no problem. These are what we call bon vivants!

How to become aware of it?

IS. That’s a bit the problem. There are almost no spaces for discussion on these “psychology and diet” questions in France. People who eat out of boredom are not satisfied, it gives them a bad image of themselves. But we are not going to talk about it to a nutritionist, the psychologist, we are not going to see him just for that… In general, we become aware of it as we gain weight.

To remedy this, you have to take the time to eat or find alternative strategies, but above all allow yourself to be bored because the body needs to rest.

Is boredom, if it causes anxiety, an enemy to intuitive eating?

IS. Yes, if it’s anxiety, you have to fill it with comfort foods, fill yourself up. But we can completely manage boredom by respecting intuitive eating, in the sense “I’d be bored, well, if I ate something nice” without it being a bulimia attack. For example, having a coffee in a waiting room, eating a small pot of popcorn while waiting for the cinema screening, etc.

Shouldn’t we rather accept boredom calmly?

IS. Quite ! Many parents are distressed by seeing their children bored as if this means they are bad parents.

Whereas teaching children to be bored is a gift we give them. Boredom is the stuff of dreams. Very often you will hear writers or artists say “I was really bored so I was reading”. Boredom develops the imagination and it is still our best resource against all our fears.

Find all of Isabelle Siac’s advice on her site

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