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Hunger can strike at the strangest of times. Whether it’s snacking at your desk, or craving a burger when it’s barely past breakfast, it’s hard to fight hunger! If you find yourself eating more frequently, or in response to certain emotions, it may not be hunger you’re feeling. In times like these it may be worth asking yourself, “Am I hungry? Or just bored?” Take our quiz below to find out.

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10 Ways to Tell If You Are Hungry or Just Bored

1. How Long Have You Been Hungry For?

Did your hunger occur all of a sudden, or build up gradually? If you haven’t eaten for a while, and can feel yourself getting hungrier, you may be experiencing physical hunger. On the other hand, emotional hunger (including hunger from boredom) will seem to appear out of nowhere.

2. What Are You Craving?

Are you hungry for food in general, or something specific? If you are hungry because you’re bored, you’re more likely to crave something specific to fill that hole. An example of this is craving a piece of cake to break up the monotony of studying. Ordering tacos to distract you from that work report you haven’t finished is another example of bored eating.

3. How Long Can You Wait?

If you get the urge to eat something to make yourself feel better, you may be experiencing boredom hunger. You can tell if you are eating because you are hungry when you can wait a bit before you eat.

4. How Will You Feel After?

Before you reach for the snacks, ask yourself if you will feel satisfied and nourished after eating. If the answer is yes, you’re eating because you’re hungry, and your body needs food. However, if you can sense that a feeling of guilt or regret will follow, you’re probably eating for boredom.

5. Is Your Stomach A Bottomless Pit?

If you feel like you’re constantly eating and nothing fills the void in your stomach, you may be bored eating. This is a tell-tale sign that you need to find something to occupy your mind other than food. Keeping yourself busy can be a great way to stave off boredom eating.

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6. Have You Been Tempted by Advertising?

Ads, commercials, and product placements in movies and TV shows can have you overeating in an instant. Especially at night, when many of us are prone to snacking. Before you head over to the fridge, ask yourself if your hunger has been triggered by advertising.

7. Are You Tired?

Boredom and tiredness go hand-in-hand. When we are tired, we often turn to food for a quick pick-me-up, or to keep us awake. Boredom hunger can also strike when we are feeling lazy, or unmotivated. If you are feeling hungry and bored, try taking a quick power nap before you reach for the snacks. If you are no longer hungry, then you were most likely experiencing boredom hunger.

8. Have You Made It a Habit?

Be aware if you are subconsciously scheduling in snack breaks during periods of boredom. For example, are you snacking on the subway to keep yourself occupied? Do you head to the staff room when you are faced with a task you don’t feel like doing? If yes, you are eating for boredom, not hunger.

9. Are You Hangry?

Being hangry is the dreadful combination of experiencing anger and hunger together. If you are hungry and agitated, your body is signalling that you have some serious hunger that needs resolving! In this case, you can be sure that you are not eating out of boredom.

10. Do You Feel Tempted?

The feeling of temptation usually accompanies boredom eating. Maybe a co-worker gifted you some sweet treats, or you find yourself eating your favourite comfort foods at home. Eating enticing foods happens when we are eating to suppress a feeling of boredom or other emotional state. If you find yourself repeatedly sneaking back and forth to the cookie jar, you’re definitely eating for boredom.

How to Stop Eating When You Are Bored

So, you’ve discovered you are eating out of boredom and want to stop. Here are some things you can do to kick the habit:

  • Drink a large glass of water instead of eating something
  • Call a friend
  • Change the scenery – go outside for a walk or visit a family member
  • Listen to music or read


With practice, you will find it easier to change your eating patterns and make better decisions.

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References:

“Are You Really Hungry? How to Your Understand Hunger Cues.” Penn Medicine, 07 April. 2020, www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2020/april/how-to-understand-hunger-cues.

Handy, Karen. “Mindful and Emotional Eating.” Sutter Health, www.sutterhealth.org/health/nutrition/mindful-and-emotional-eating.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Weight loss: Gain control of emotional eating.” Mayo Clinic, 9 Dec. 2020,  https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss/art-20047342

“Why Am I Always Hungry?” WebMD, 4 Aug. 2021, www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/athletes-foot-topic-overview

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