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Do you eat while watching TV? Or in front of your computer?  Or while working? Recent research has indicated that distracted eatindistractedg can lead to increased calorie consumption. Several of these studies compared two groups of eaters – those who ate in front of the TV and those who didn’t. The basic findings were that those who ate while watching TV tended to consume more calories at that meal; and those who paid attention to their meal tended to consume fewer calories at a later meal.

There is a mind body connection when it comes to eating. Your awareness of the food you’re consuming is one of the cues your body uses to decide how soon to be hungry again. If you are oblivious to what you’re eating, it is not only easier to over-consume at that meal, you also tend to get hungry again sooner because you don’t recall having eaten.

imagesThe opposite of distracted eating is to be mindful or attentive to what you are eating. Unplug the computer, TV, etc. and eat at the table. Take time to set the table with silverware and plates, maybe even candles! Eat at a slower pace. In fact, you can try to eat a normal-sized meal taking at least 20 minutes, since that is the time it takes for your brain to get the message that your stomach is full.

To slow down:

  • Eat with your non-dominant hand.
  • Put your fork down between bites.
  • Take a sip of water between each bite.
  • Notice the color, smell, texture, temperature and taste of your food.
  • Take small bites and savor them.
  • Put away cell phones and other electronic devices.
  • Have pleasant conversations with family, friends or co-workers during your meal.

The benefits of attentive eating are not only consuming fewer calories, but also increasing the likelihood that you’ll eat healthier food and enjoy it more!

Writer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County.

Reviewers:  Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County and Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County

Sources:

Harvard Medical School, Harvard Health Publications, LeWine. “Distracted Eating May Add to Weight Gain.” Retrieved 9-16-2013 from: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/distracted-eating-may-add-to-weight-gain-201303296037

Daily Mail, Health Home, Innes. “Why eating in front of the TV makes you fat: You consume 25% more LATER in the day without realizing.” Retrieved 9-15-2013 from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2295303/Why-eating-TV-makes-fat-You-consume-25-LATER-day-realising.html#ixzz2ehZG1Mu8

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