A frequently uttered phrase in the dieting community is something along the lines of “only eat when you’re hungry, not just because you’re bored.”
In the spirit of being healthy, my parents also said this a lot to me when I was growing up. I spent a lot of time snacking, usually for no reason other than it was something to do. Now that I’m in college, I find myself having returned to this pattern of behavior. If I’m not doing anything specific, I’m probably just sitting in my room eating. My understanding is that this is typical college behavior, but it makes me think about what is really happening when I’m eating “out of boredom.”
My snack of choice is, and has always been, pretzels. I buy large, plastic jars of pretzels and keep them beside my desk at all times. Pretzels have basically become a staple of my diet. And when I’m bored, I pull them out and eat, either until I’m full, or I find something else to do or somewhere else to go.
Another aspect of typical college life is eating actual meals irregularly. That is to say, snacking is sometimes the only nutrition college kids have time for (or can afford) in a day. Personally, I have a schedule of classes that overlap with normal meal times, and ‘free time’ is more of a theoretical concept after school work and other daytime obligations. By the time I get home, usually 10P.M. or later, I probably haven’t eaten dinner, and am too tired or have too much to do to go back out for food. I imagine that many college kids experience this same thing.
At this point of my day, I’m sitting down trying to do my homework. But I also get distracted easily, as is prone to happen when working on a laptop with the whole internet ahead of you. And so, in a short while, I’ve stopped working and have cycled through all the social media and entertainment sites I could think of. Now, I’m just bored. Already decently hungry from not having eaten dinner, I’ll start eating pretzels without any thought. I think that’s fair, because even though I’m really eating out of boredom, I’m also genuinely hungry.
The problem is the times when I shouldn’t genuinely be hungry. I practice this late-night pretzel eating behavior nearly every day. It has gotten to the point where I sit down and eat pretzels almost out of habit. In a way, I’ve conditioned myself to want pretzels every time that I’m bored. Other times of the day, even if I’ve just eaten, I will sit down at my desk and get bored with my work, which makes me want to eat pretzels. I make myself think I’m hungry, because it’s not atypical for me to be hungry and bored simultaneously.
I’m not sure how this applies to the original hungry/bored eating advice. I don’t even think of eating pretzels as snacking anymore, but instead, I try to justify it by reasoning whether or not I only want pretzels when I’m bored.
Perhaps I should just stop keeping pretzels in my room.