40 Things to Do Instead of Eat When You're Bored

By , SparkPeople Blogger
After a long day at work, at school, in carpool lanes or {insert daily obligation here}, your energy reserves and brain power have been thoroughly zapped. You manage to squeeze in a quick workout, grab dinner, knock out some laundry and maybe answer a few emails—and then before you know it, you find yourself halfway through a bag of chips, a pint of ice-cream or maybe just a few too many crackers with hummus. You're not quite sure how or why you started eating in the first place…after all, dinner was just an hour or two ago, and you're certainly not hungry. It's just that for the first time all day, you finally have some down time, your phone has stopped ringing, no one is clamoring for your attention, your mind is wandering aimlessly and the food is just right there…

If this scenario sounds all too familiar, you're not alone. Studies have shown that people are much more likely to crave food—particularly sugary and fatty snacks—when they're bored. After observing participants who were intentionally subjected to periods of boredom, scientists found that the people chose to eat as a way to break the monotony, not necessarily to enjoy the taste or to satisfy any degree of hunger.

If boredom is eating up your goals, the best strategy is to occupy your mind and body with thoughts and activities that have nothing to do with food. (Note: This only applies when you're not physically hungry—if your body is giving you clear cues that it's time to fuel up, you shouldn't deprive it of the sustenance it needs.) So, next time your belly is full and your calendar is empty, try some of these fork-free ways to fill up those idle hours.

40 Ways to Bust Monotony Without a Meal

  1. Call your mom. (Or your dad, grandmother, cousin or anyone who would be thrilled—and maybe surprised—to hear from you.)
  2. Dance. Been awhile, hasn't it? Download your favorite up-tempo song or throw on an old-school album and let all your wiggles out. Don't worry, no one's watching.
  3. Clean out a junk drawer. You know you've got one, and it's probably not pretty. After 10 minutes, you'll have a nicely organized drawer without a single calorie to show for it.
  4. Go for a walk. So what if you've already worked out today? Your step count will skyrocket, and you'll benefit from the fresh air.
  5. Walk the dog. Don't have one? Borrow the neighbor's or volunteer at a local animal shelter.
  6. Listen to an audio book. This is great for long drives, when you'd otherwise be tempted to snack or sip.
  7. Do a jigsaw puzzle. Not only will it fill up the time, it helps stimulate the brain and could even prevent Alzheimer's.
  8. Plan next week's meals. Put today's cravings to good use by applying them (in a healthy way) to your future menu.
  9. Tap into your spiritual side. This could mean praying, meditating or just connecting with nature—whatever soothes your soul.
  10. Start that vision collage you've been thinking about making for ages.
  11. Play with your kids (or grandkids). Whether it's a wiffle ball game, a tea party with dolls or a Wii marathon, they'll appreciate the attention—and you'll come away feeling younger at heart.
  12. Write down (or track online) everything you've eaten so far today. The list will most likely help silence the snack that's calling your name.
  13. Listen to a favorite podcast while tackling a cleaning chore you've been dreading.
  14. Look at photos of yourself from the start of your weight loss journey (even if this is day one).
  15. Brush your teeth. Most foods and drinks don't taste good after toothpaste, so brushing could curb cravings while also promoting good oral hygiene.
  16. Identify a cause that's important to you, then spend some time researching what you can do to help.
  17. Soak in some vitamin D. Whether it's a stroll on a sunny winter day or an hour at the pool, some (protected) time in the sun can do wonders for your mood and energy.
  18. Make a list of the next three gifts you need to buy, and—time and money permitting—buy them.
  19. Vacuum out your car. You'll burn calories and enjoy the short-lived satisfaction of a clean ride.
  20. Sip on some water or tea. Many people mistake thirst for hunger.
  21. Go on a photo safari. Whether it's in your backyard or at the beach, viewing the world through a lens is a great way to slow down and appreciate your surroundings.
  22. Start learning a new language. It's never too late.
  23. Pack a donation box. Look around the house for neglected items—clothes, dishes, electronics or anything you haven’t used in the past year—and prepare a package to donate to a local shelter or thrift shop.
  24. Take off your clothes, look at yourself in the mirror and focus on the body part you like the best. (Yes, there is one.)
  25. Give yourself a facial, pedicure or manicure. (Fact: You can't open a bag of chips when you have wet nails.)
  26. Organize your spice drawer. Throw out expired bottles, make a list of what's running low and get inspired by spices you'd like to use more often.
  27. Take a hot bath. Food and bubbles don't mix, and you'll benefit from the extra relaxation.
  28. Connect with your people. Whether they're your neighbors or co-workers, your tribe of supporters are sometimes the best line of defense against cravings.
  29. Go shopping in your closet. Start in the back and try on anything you haven't worn in a while. You just might discover that some items from your "too-small stash" fit better than ever before.
  30. Commit to spending half an hour on a hobby you love, but have been neglecting lately.
  31. Map out your next vacation. It doesn't matter if it will be next month, next year or at an undetermined date. Select a destination and then research flights, lodging, recreation and other details. Some believe that half the fun of travel is in the planning!
  32. Write a letter to someone you've been angry with, focusing on forgiveness instead of fury. Shred it or send it, it's up to you.
  33. Download all those photos from your phone and create a digital album.
  34. Write down all the things you don't like about your body (or yourself in general), and then rip it up.
  35. Register for a race. Bonus points for mapping out a training plan.
  36. Start decorating for the next holiday.
  37. Empty your kitchen cabinets, clean out the insides, pitch or donate what you haven't used in the past year and then organize what's left. You'll reap the benefits for the whole next year.
  38. Start re-reading a favorite book from high school or college, and enjoy it in a whole new light.
  39. Use some essential oils to relax, recharge and stimulate a sense other than taste.
  40. Make something. This might be a crocheted blanket, a painting, a poem—anything that didn't exist before today.
Now, it's your turn! Next time you're tempted to open the fridge, sit down and make your own list. Anything goes: Include activities you already enjoy, new things you've been meaning to try or stuff you've been neglecting, so you'll always have an ample source of healthy, calorie-free distractions at the ready.

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