Is Multitasking Hurting Your Waistline?
A new study that will appear in the journal Appetite’s March 2013 issue reveals that distracted eating may not satisfy your hunger the same way eating while you're focused on your food does.
The key finding suggests that simply being distracted doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll eat more. What determines if you’ll eat more is how much the other activities you're doing (think reading emails, watching television, driving) distract you from your hunger. In other words, when you're watching television while you eat, you won’t be as in touch with your feeling of fullness, and may end up overeating.
The bottom line: It's important to be in touch with your feelings of hunger and satiety while you eat. We’ve been having our clients do this for years by helping them eat more mindfully. To practice “mindful eating” you must focus more on the meal itself so you can recognize when you’ve had enough to eat and stop before you become overly full. To set the mood for mindful eating:
Create a peaceful eating environment. Try to avoid eating in harsh, unappealing lighting. Maybe even light a candle at the dinner table.
Sit to eat. This means no standing in front of the fridge or pantry with a bag of chips. If you’re going to eat them, sit down at the table to do it.
Eat slowly. Chew each bite at least ten times so your brain has the full 20 minutes it requires to realize your body’s been fed.
Eliminate distractions. Shut off the TV and move away from the computer and the newspaper (this one is hard for us, too).
Makes sense, right? However, we know it’s not always possible to completely ditch distractions--or the need to multitask. We’re the first to admit that we often wouldn’t have time for lunch if we didn’t eat it while working at our desks. So, if you must eat while you multitask, so here are some tips to help prevent over-doing it:
Eat your meals off salad plates. Research shows that most of us clear our plates, so eating off a smaller plate will keep portions in check.
Portion chips on a plate before eating them. If you don’t eat straight from the bag, you’re less likely to mow through an entire package in one sitting.
Use kids’ utensils. Tammy has unintentionally done this at several meals she’s eaten with her kids—and she has first-hand experience that the small bites slow you down. Plus, some kids' silverware is relatively inexpensive.
Cut your food up into small pieces. This stalls you and makes you pay attention to what you’re eating. Not to mention, cutting food into bite-size pieces may lead you to eat less, according to a recent study from Arizona State University.
Eat snack food one piece at a time. When you don’t grab handfuls of popcorn, pretzels, or chips, you'll temper your speed and become more aware of what you're putting in your mouth.
Use chopsticks. With chopsticks, it becomes difficult to shovel food. In fact, we tried this when we were young, and used to annoy our mom with how long we took to eat (which goes to show that the trick works!).
After you’ve eaten half of your meal, stop eating. Stand up and assess how hungry you are and whether you really need more food. If twenty minutes hasn’t passed since you started eating, wait until then before having more food.
Relearn your feelings of hunger. Before and after you eat, record your level of hunger on a scale from one to ten, with ten being Thanksgiving-day stuffed and one being famished. When you start a meal you never want to be too hungry, so eat when you’re around a level four. At the same time, you never want to be overstuffed, so stop eating when you reach a level six.
Tell us: Do you have any tricks to help you to become more in tune with your body’s feeling of hunger?
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