How many times have you found yourself with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand occupied by a sandwich or burrito? How many of you also never get formal lunch breaks and end up chowing on takeout or even your healthy meal prep over your keyboard with a phone pressed to your shoulder? As you can guess, this is most people. However, a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology says that this practice could lead to some overeating and weight gain, especially for those on lower calorie diets to lose weight.
Researchers asked 60 adult females who were either dieters or non-dieters and gave them all a cereal bar to eat under three different conditions. The first group was asked to watch a five-minute clip of ‘Friends’ while eating. The second group was asked to walk around while eating, and the third group was simply asked to sit and have a conversation with a friend. After the experiment, participants were given more snacks, including chocolate, carrot sticks, grapes and crisps in order to measure how much they ate. Out of all the women, those who were both the dieters and walkers ate more snacks than the other two groups. Specifically, they ate five times more chocolate.
This brought the conclusion that eating while on the go, namely eating while walking or driving, may make dieters overeat later in the day due to these actions being a powerful form of distraction. The study also notes that any form of distraction this powerful, such as eating at our desk while blasting out emails, can lead to weight gain. So why is this?
This is due to the fact that you are not eating mindfully when eating on the go or otherwise distracted. Since we are not consciously enjoying our food by enjoying it and building a connection with it, our minds don’t recognize the food that has been consumed. Therefore, it does not efficiently communicate to the stomach that you are full because you were not concentrating on the act of taking in food, but rather just eating for survival in response to hunger cues.
So what can be done? Schedule your eating times the same way you schedule your meetings or other obligations. Even if you can only fit in 15-20 minutes to sit down and concentrate on enjoying your food, this can prevent overeating during your lunch or later on in the day by strengthening that mind-stomach connection. You also build a better relationship with food and can experience it as nourishment rather than consuming it like a job. If weight loss is your goal, even if you diligently prep your meals with perfect portions and healthy ingredients, if you aren’t taking the time to savor your food and build a connection with it, you could still end up overeating and sabotaging your weight loss without even realizing it. So, take the time. Enjoy your food. You’ll be happier and leaner because of it.