(The fourth of 10 blogs on behaviors that affect eating)
The TV tray was invented in 1952 and Swanson’s quickly followed with TV dinners. Since that time the typical American has added 26 pounds.
Multitasking—like eating while watching television or working—and distracted or hurried eating can prompt you to eat more. Slowing down and savoring your food can help you gain control of your intake. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
In the above research paper, the researchers reviewed 24 well-controlled studies on the impact of how attention and distraction impacted eating. In addition to eating more when distracted the results showed distractioned people ate more after the meal.
Hunger is not the only thing that influences how much we eat. Once you start eating, it takes the gut 20 minutes to get an “I’m full” signal to the brain. If you are not paying attention, you can consume a lot of extra calories.
Everyday Ways to Break the Distracted Eating Habit
This research really hit home with me. When I am eating breakfast or lunch alone I like to read. In retrospect, many meals were consumed with little or no memory of the food or the act of eating.
As with any habit there is “stopping part” and “the what you do instead” part.
Here’s what I am stopping: the TV gets turned off, the book, computer, iPad or magazine doesn’t get invited to the table, and neither does my cellular phone.
I plate the food deliberately so I am aware of how much and what I am going to consume – no seconds allowed. I have this Harvard Healthy Eating Plate in mind when selecting my servings.
The pre-plating is a control mechanism for the meal. To curb eating more after the meal I keep a record of what I have eaten. Research shows that enhancing your memory of what you have eaten reduces what you eat later.
Mindful Eating. My goal is to pay attention to the full spectrum of eating experience. Strategies for getting in the right frame-of-mind for mindful eating are discussed in an earlier post: How Your Mood Affect Eating Pleasure and the Health of Your Diet.
The fork is taken out of automatic pilot as I try to appreciate the full sensory experience of what I eat. Since I am guilty of eating too fast, I actual put the fork down after the first bite of new food in the meal. I tried to put it down between every bite throughout the meal but this has turned out to take too much effort and distracts from the overall pleasure of the meal.
I am the primary cook in my house and take a lot of pride in quality of the meals I prepare. Before, quality control took place in the kitchen. Now I am mentally engaged in assessing how well the meal came together during consumption. I use herbs and spices liberally and now pay special attention to the subtle ways they enhance or detract from the meal.