The era of distraction overeating

Eating Habits

By Catherine McCurry

DISTRACTION eating. We are all guilty of it at some stage of the day. Whether it’s during breakfast, lunch or family dinner, or on-the-go, there will undoubtedly be a television on, a mobile phone in hand or newspaper on the table.

There are a multitude of distractions at every meal and we can’t help but surrender to them.

We all have tendencies to multi-task during the day and eating is one of them. The problem here is that it soon becomes part of our routine and is no longer considered a distraction to our meals.

Looking around the Fermanagh Herald kitchen, almost everyone is eating while their attention is focussed elsewhere, whether it’s by a mobile phone or a newspaper. I, too, am guilty of this as my breaks are often consumed by what’s been happening online or catching up on the daily newspapers.

It has now become acceptable during dinner time at home to watch television while eating at the kitchen table. This creates a problem, not only socially, but in how much we eat in one meal.

Studies have found that if you eat while distracted, you forget the food you’ve eaten and you can eat up to 288 calories more if you eat in front of the TV.

The next time you eat a meal, think about what you are doing and if you find your mind beginning to wander then turn away from the TV, put away your phone, shut your laptop and focus on your food and you’ll eat less.

If weight is an issue for you, then by paying attention to what you eat could help you from overeating. Being distracted or eating quickly can often led people to eat more because their attention is focussed on something else while slowing down and savouring what you eat can help control how much you eat.

It takes approximately 20 minutes before the brain starts to send out signals that we are full and not hungry anymore, so if we eat too quickly then we are more likely to eat more calories in that space of time.

Also pay more attention to exactly what you are putting in your mouth and you are more likely to opt for healthier choices.

If you engage in another activity while eating then we tend to forget what exactly we have eaten plus how much of it we have consumed which can often lead to fake hunger.

I’ll admit that I am always distracted at meal times, particularly in the evenings, but I control the size of portions I eat so I hope this hasn’t been too much of a problem for me.

I recently watched Channel 4’s Secret Eaters which centres around overweight people who claim their weight gain is a mystery to them. One of the secret eater culprits put away a whole packet of biscuits while drinking tea and watching TV. Definitely a lesson to learn from.

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