What are you doing right now, while you’re reading this post? Hopefully nothing, hopefully I have your complete and undivided attention, but in reality that’s probably not the case. We live in an age of multitasking. We are rarely doing just one thing at a time — and one activity we multitask the most during is meal time. We watch TV during meals, we read the paper, we browse the internet or work at our computers, we play games, drive and talk on the phone while eating. The possibilities are endless.
Most of us have heard (or realized after the entire bag of potato chips is gone and we don’t know what happened) that eating in front of the TV causes us to eat more during that meal or snack. That is because you’re distracted and not paying attention to the signals your body is giving you and you aren’t giving your brain enough cues about what you’re eating.
But it turns out that eating a meal while distracted or multitasking can even make you over consume foods later in the day!
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated this effect. 44 men and women were split into two groups. One group was given lunch while they playing a computer game and the other group was given lunch with no distractions. Later on, both groups took a cookie “taste test”. People in the group who ate their lunch in front of the computer ate twice as many cookies! Both groups were also asked to recall all the items they were given for lunch, in the order the foods were served. The computer group had more difficulty recalling the order in which foods were served and they reported feeling less full after lunch.
The study suggests that when we eat while distracted, we have a poorer memory of what we ate, we feel less satisfied after the meal and we want more food later.
So what should you do? Well, it’s pretty simple — take time to enjoy your meals! Not only will you be able to pay attention to what your body is telling you, you’ll enjoy other benefits as well. Taking your time to chew your food completely, eating at a slower pace and being more conscious of what you eat will have benefits for your digestive system and give your brain and body enough time to communicate and tell you when you’re full. Slowing down and have some time where your mind isn’t going in a million different directions will help lower stress levels. Use meal time as a time to relax and let go of responsibilities and deadlines. Meal time can also be a great time to get the family or friends together and build and strengthen relationships.