By Kathleen Passanisi. Kathleen Passanisi PT, CSP, CPAE is an internationally recognized transformational speaker, therapeutic humor expert, healthcare professional and author. She has spoken to bajillions of people about life balance, wellness, the power of perception, and the link that exists between humor and health. Kathleen is a member of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame and the funniest woman in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri (and, quite possibly, the Western Hemisphere.) For more information on Kathleen's presentations, books and products please visit the New Perspectives website at www.KathleenPassanisi.com
You’ve seen it in a hundred movies: The girl, face streaming with tears, surrounded by wads of tissues, creates a bonfire out of pictures of her ex and dives head-first into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, box of donuts or super-sized bag of cheese puffs.
This eating and crying routine has become the post-breakup standard in modern media. Between sitcoms, movies, Lifetime, WE, and Oxygen, you can probably find this scene on TV at all times. Usually, in the next scene, the crying has moved onto a stationary bike or jog with a friend where our heroine laments not only the fact that her dream man is married, but that she ate an entire box of Ho-Ho’s.
It’s no surprise to American women that food is an antidote to sadness, stress, disappointment, frustration, etc. Why else would the term “comfort food” exist? But, recent studies are showing a much more common cause of over-eating for both women and men, boredom.
Consider a scenario from your life. You’re home alone or with your everyday companions. You flip channels until you find something that’s just engaging enough to keep you awake. How many trips to the refrigerator do you then make? Do you hit the pizza place phone number you have on speed dial? When you finally choose to do something productive, is there a telltale trail of snack leftovers between you and the TV?
If not, you may stop reading now. Pat yourself on the back and go do three hours of spinning or whatever it is you perfect people do for fun. But, if so, resist the urge to wallow amongst your candy bar wrappers. Feeling blue will only enhance the problem (see paragraph one.) Wellness relies on being proactive, even if you don’t want to leave your couch.
What is boredom?
Overeater’s Anonymous will tell you that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Your particular problem is not that you are hungry. You are bored. But what is boredom? Boredom is the brain’s reaction to perceived monotony. Much like fatigue, it is involuntary and affects some people more suddenly and severely than others. In a bored state, the brain basically shifts into auto-pilot. Stresses and high emotions flat line, details blur, your attention wanes. You find yourself asking “What did I come in here after?” or “What did he just say?” Much like insomnia, you’re not really awake, but you are not asleep either. To break out of this boredom rut, people seek sleep or, more often, instant gratification.
Here’s an easy riddle. What’s readily accessible, inexpensive, somewhat comforting, and requires no effort? Junk food, of course! And the odds of avoiding it are against you. Studies at the Beth Israel Methadone clinic found that boredom is a key factor in whether drug addicts will relapse. If it can bring someone back to drugs, it can surely bring you back to the freezer! So what can you do?
On ambitious days:
If you’re feeling up to leaving the magical Land of Couch, do so! Many people associate food with home and/or privacy, so leave your comfort zone. Seek out places and activities that don’t have a built in lazy or snack-filled component. Ballpark hotdogs, and movie theatre popcorn are not your best bets. Exercise your mind and body, instead of your jaw.
On lazier days:
If the Land of Couch is just too enticing (or there is a Law and Order marathon on TV), staying in may be irresistible. Do not let that defeat you. There are plenty of ways to fight the big blue boredom monster.
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