Intuitive Eating vs Boredom Eating

A few weeks ago, we drove to the East coast for a late summer vacation. We visited some family, did some camping and hung out around my husband’s old stomping grounds so he could show me where he grew up. I’d never been to Virginia before, and I enjoyed learning about some of the history that I never cared much about in high school. Funny how things change…

While I usually prefer to fly when we travel, road trips are fun because I can pack way more than the basics/minimum that I restrict myself to on airplanes. In the comfort of my own car, I can bring all kinds of books, as many pillows as I want, a cooler of cold beverages and of course…snacks. This time, we went all out with our favorites: Snyder’s pieces (honey mustard, buffalo and jalapeño) cheddar popcorn, peanut butter M&Ms, dried mango, Nature’s Bakery fig bars, string cheese, baby carrots, and three loaves of zucchini bread. Yes, all for two people. No, I’m not sorry.

I drove for the first leg of the trip because my husband didn’t get home until late the night before. Since we woke up at 4:00 am to hit the road, I figured it was best to let him sleep a little more. Once he woke up, we had breakfast, switched spots, put on a podcast, and got back on the road.

After an hour or so, I was kinda bored, which isn’t at all surprising given that we’d been driving for at least six hours by that point. I turned around in my seat and started sorting through the books I’d brought. Reading seemed like too much work. I caught up on my texts and emails. Done. I scrolled social media a bit. Same old, same old.

Trying to find something to do, I then remembered the snacks. “Hmmmm,” I started thinking, “Those M&Ms are my favorite kind!” But when I stopped a moment to consider how I’d feel after eating some, I realized that since I wasn’t hungry, low energy, or really craving the M&Ms, eating them out of sheer boredom would probably leave me feeling kind of crummy – too full and overly sugared.

Don’t get me wrong, I love peanut butter M&Ms, and I regularly include them in my snack life. I don’t restrict them, limit them, count them, or create rules about them. However, intuitive eating means more than just eating whatever type of candy pops into my head at a given moment. It means checking in with myself, evaluating how the food (or lack thereof) would make me feel, and then making a decision based off of that information.

On my blog and social media, I talk a lot about how snack foods can be part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle, and provide examples of how I include them in my daily eating. This is mostly to illustrate that we don’t need to restrict our favorite foods in order to embrace the natural size and shape of our bodies. Maintaining our weight is easy when we respect our genes, honor our hunger, and indulge our cravings. But it also requires that we respond appropriately to fullness, identify our other real emotions too, (ie boredom) and then likewise respond appropriately to those.

Intuitive eating isn’t all about cupcakes and M&Ms. Sometimes it means salad, sometimes it means carrots, and sometimes it means intuitively not eating.

Do you find you are able to easily differentiate between hunger and boredom?


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