If you’re here, you’re looking for a list of things to do instead of eating. Maybe you’re eating because you’re bored, you’re looking for alternatives to stress eating, or maybe you’re simply finding yourself eating when you’re not actually hungry.
Let’s dive into actionable things you can do instead of eating the next time the urge to eat when you’re not hungry hits. We’ll also cover why your urge to eat when you’re not hungry feels so strong in the first place.
What to do when the urge to eat hits when you’re not hungry
When you feel hit with boredom, stress, or emotional eating urges, you have two options.
- Eat! The first option is to simply eat something! Even if you know it’s not real hunger, I recommend prioritizing a balanced snack if you can. It will help you listen to your fullness faster and prevent overeating. Remember, eating to meet an emotional need is normal sometimes! It happens, it’s normal, and we all do it.
- Remove yourself from your kitchen and do something else instead of eating. I recommend thinking about this as a re-evaluation strategy. Then, commit to whatever coping mechanism you choose for at least 15-30 minutes before re-evaluating. You may find that breaking the habit of moving right to food when you’re bored is exactly what you need. Here are some great options to keep in your back pocket next.
45 Things to do instead of eating
- Go for a walk
- Call a friend
- Text a friend
- Journal about your day
- Make a hot cup of tea
- Knit or crochet
- Give yourself a mini facial
- Paint your nails
- Paint your toes
- Start a puzzle
- Scroll on social media
- Start a new show
- Watch a movie
- Make a grocery list
- Do a word search
- Turn on some music and dance
- Take a bath or shower
- Go for a scenic drive
- Go grab your favorite coffee
- Listen to a guided meditation
- Read a book
- Listen to your fave podcast
- Answer e-mails
- Write a to-do list
- Color in a coloring book
- Take some deep breaths
- Do a crossword puzzle
- Play games on your phone or iPad
- Do a yoga video on YouTube
- Start some laundry
- Load your dishwasher
- Organize a closet
- Take a nap
- Go to Target (personal fave)
- Research your next vacation
- Snuggle on the couch with your pet
- Write down your goals
- Straighten up your house
- Organize your bedroom
- Do some gardening
- Plan out your day
- Do some online shopping
- Watch your favorite Youtube channel
- Get your nighttime routine started
Still feel like eating after you’ve tried 15 minutes of something else? It’s okay! This may be one of those moments that a snack is just what you need. Don’t feel discouraged or like you did something wrong if your coping mechanism didn’t work. Just like anything else, working through emotional and boredom eating takes practice. You will have SO many opportunities to practice.
Other non-hunger eating triggers
You may find yourself boredom eating in certain situations, like while watching TV. Let’s cover what to do instead of eating in specific scenarios.
What can you do instead of eating while watching TV?
If you’re finding yourself constantly snacking while you’re watching your favorite shows, you want something that you can actively do while you’re watching.
- Try making yourself a hot cup of flavored tea
- Use an adult coloring workbook
- Knit or crochet something
How to stop boredom eating at night
- Prevent any residual hunger from the day by prioritizing a balanced, satisfying dinner with plenty of protein, high fiber carbohydrates, and fat.
- Eat a balanced snack after dinner. Some of us just like to have an after-dinner snack, and that’s okay!
- Have a solid nighttime routine. If you’re going to bed too late, nighttime boredom eating is much more likely to happen.
How to stop boredom eating at work
- Bring enough food with you. If you skimped on your meal packing or you didn’t pack balanced snacks, those Doritos in the vending machine are going to look that much more enticing when you’re bored.
- Bring food you enjoy eating. Yes, choosing healthy foods is important. But, if you bring stuff to work that is way “too” healthy and not exciting to eat, you’re going to be searching for other foods. Bring foods that excite you, like the new grinder salad recipe that you just tried.
- Make a hot tea or coffee instead. Sometimes we just need a little afternoon comforting pick-me-up. It doesn’t have to be food.
What to do instead of emotional eating
If you feel like you’re eating purely because of emotions like sadness, stress, or worry, I recommend really diving into the root of what’s going on.
- Journal: What emotions specifically are making you want to eat? Are there certain things happening in your life that are contributing?
- Come up with a plan: If your emotional eating is happening because you’re super stressed out, what stress-relieving activities can you start prioritizing?
- Execute the plan: If you know that exercise lowers your stress levels, put a plan in place. Ex: I’m going to go for a 20 minute walk on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 9am.
It’s normal to sometimes eat when you’re not hungry. But, if you’re finding that it’s happening often, interfering with your goals, or just not making you feel great… I get it. Figuring out what you can do instead of eating is super important so that most of the time, you’re listening to your hunger and fullness appropriately.
Speaking of which, are you struggling to stop eating after you’re full? I’ve got the perfect next step for you here: Why do I keep eating after I’m full (and what to do about it)