Have you ever prepared a snack and walked away to check your email or returned a call and went to grab for the rest of the snack……and there was nothing there!? At first,t this may sound like something from a science fiction movie, but distracted eating often happens in reality. We try to get as much done as we can in a short amount of time, leading to distracted eating.
Distracted eating is consuming food while engaged in another activity. This distraction can lead to many negative consequences and hinder those who are trying to lose weight. Research has shown that it takes about 20 minutes for our brains to register that we are getting complete to our gut. So, a good gauge is taking time to sit for most snacks and meals for at least 20-30 minutes. When we are running from one task to another, we are not getting this time, leading to some adverse effects.
The Downside to distracted eating:
- Consuming more calories, with more significant portions sizes and overeating, which can lead to weight gain
- Missed hunger cues
- Less enjoyment from the food. When you are not taking the time to eat, you miss out on the taste and textures of a snack or meal.
- We eat with our eyes first, so missed visuals of food can lead to overeating at the next meal or snack because you don’t remember what you ate in the first place.
- Research has shown that memory plays a big part in our meal patterns and intakes. Our brains form memories after eating (such as how the food tasted, whether we like what we ate or not, how much we ate, and how hungry we are after the meal). When distracted, you didn’t take the time to form a good memory about what you ate. You may then feel hungrier in less time or tend to overeat at the next snack or meal.
Things to do to help avoid distracted eating:
- Meal plan for the week so you can prepare portion sizes and a better balance for snacks and meals without being in a rush
- Food journal. Taking the time to write down your food will help slow you down and make better choices. In addition, you will be more aware of what you eat if you have to write it down after.
- Think about each bite, including the number of chews and the taste and texture of eating. Then, your mind will focus more on eating and less on something else.
- Walk away from all electronic devices while eating; this includes (I know this is a tough one) the televisioInstead, try and make your regular meals and snacks a priority.
- Have a go-to healthy snack on hand like popcorn or almonds dusted with cocoa and portioned out in advance when it’s movie night.
- Don’t eat out of food bags and containers. This leads to more mindless eating and more calories consumed.
- While working, try to walk away from your desk and go outside if possible. Change up the scenery where you are; a different room or chair can help you feel more relaxed and help to enjoy the meal.
- Have a special bowl/plate you use for a meal. Make it a point to get that dish every time before you start to eat. This routine can help you look forward to eating and being more aware of what you eat.
Remember: less distracted eating leads to healthy memories and healthier food choices. So figure when it’s movie night out what distracts you while eating and make the changes today to be aware and enjoy your food more!
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