Distracted eating prompts you to eat more. If you watch TV or look into your phone or even read a book while eating, you miss the essence of eating. A study published in the journal Nutrition observed watching TV increased the consumption of sugar and salt-laden foods and lessened the intake of fruits and veggies.
It is disturbing to see people having dinner with eyes glued to melodramatic TV soaps or busy checking social media updates on the phone while the jaws doing the chewing unmindfully. We grab a pack of chips and munch on while watching TV intently. Before we relish the taste, the entire pack is empty. All these can be labeled as distracted eating.
Distracted eating is the opposite of intentional eating:
You eat but your mind is elsewhere. For instance, you are immersed in work not willing to spare time for lunch. You gobble up sandwiches one after another at jet speed to fill yourself so that you can be perfect with your office presentation. At that time, your mind is not alert to make smart choices.
You fail to take care of what and how much to eat. You stop when you feel stuffed. Similarly, when you are in front of the screen, you fail to focus on how much you are pushing into your mouth. This is a serious eating disorder that should be shunned by all.
Why distracted eating leads to weight gain?
If you are worried about weight gain, being mindful during eating will help more than by eating less. This important observation was reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2013. The conclusion does make a sense.
How much we eat throughout the day is not only influenced by hunger. Attention and memory also are vital contributors. If you eat mindfully, after some time, say 20 minutes, your brain will signal out you are full or no longer feeling hungry. These signals turn off your appetite. You leave your plate.
When you aren’t eating mindfully, you are not paying attention to what is going in your mouth. You are not processing the information. Naturally, your memory does not store your eating event and without your memory being stored, you are likely to eat more often than your normal course of eating. The consequence, you take in more calories and add more pounds.
In a study conducted in 2011, researchers observed how mindful eating helped people manage their food intake and body weight. It concluded the same. Eating mindfully made people feel full and satisfied. They are unlikely to eat more often later.
There is another important point to be noted regarding the portion size, vital for weight watchers. According to Jeff Brunstrom, Ph.D., professor at the University of Bristol, if you are busy at something while eating, you are likely to miss the visible and physical cues that you have had enough. An internal alarm works triggering your feeling in the gut whether you need more or just had enough. When you miss this alarm, you tend to eat more.
Mindful eating leads to creating healthier families:
Another study released by Rutgers University found that family members enjoying meals together are healthier and are less likely to suffer from unwanted weight gain. While you sit with your family to enjoy home-cooked food, you focus on it and eat mindfully. This is very important for adolescents those who are at a higher risk of developing obesity owing to frequent snacking while watching TV.
Distracted eating in kids:
Many kids are used to this eating habit. These kids are never willing to have scheduled meals but are typically consuming too many unhealthy foods throughout the day. Parents may feel satisfied to note the plate empty fast as the kid continues to watch TV while eating just to take advantage of distracted eating. It will do more harm than good. The kid will never learn to feel the cues of hunger and satiety.
What happens with the practice of feeding kids watching TV?
- Kids fail to build the self-skill feed. They are deprived of a fine motor skill which is important in later phases of growth.
- Parents fix an unrealistic expectation about the amount of food the kid should eat. They tend to overfeed.
- The child’s focus is constantly on the screen. He fails to develop the sense of taste of particular food items and turn out to be fussy eaters as he grows up creating more problems for himself and parents.
Therefore, it is not surprising to find overweight kids before stepping into the school as they have been overfed since long. It also becomes worrisome for parents since these kids lacking self-feeding skill won’t be able to eat lunch.
How to eat mindfully?
Put simply, mindfulness is a practice of living in the present. This implies focusing on a particular activity at a particular moment. This is the basis to do away with distracted eating habit. It is quite simple to stop this eating disorder.
As you notice the aroma, color, texture and presentation of the dishes spread automatically you start getting mindful. However, grow the habit of slow heating instead of gobbling and never carry books, newspapers or cell phones to the dining table. The following tips may help you get started:
- Set your timer to approximately 20 minutes and ensure that you have your meal throughout that period.
- Avoid eating while working on laptops or at the desk. This negatively affects your hunger hormones. Your blood circulation is away from the digestive organs as you are focused on eating which is likely to affect your digestion.
- Use your non-dominant hand. If you are right-handed, use the left hand while eating or vice versa. It will help you have control on portion size.
- Try to use chopsticks if possible.
- Devote a few minutes to silent eating thinking about the ingredients, procedure and efforts taken to produce the meal.
- Take small bites and chew thoroughly. A randomized cross-study found that increasing the number of chews by 150%-200% leads to an approximate 10-15% of food intake.
- Before eating, ask yourself if you are really hungry or just want to satisfy your craving.
- Avoid late-night snacking. After a long stressful day, it is the habit of many people to crave for unhealthy sugary and salty foods while watching TV after dinner. This might be due to stress. Practice stress management strategies to avoid this habit.