You are a multitasker if:
- You eat and drink while driving.
- You eat and drink while reading and talking on the phone.
- You eat and drink while preparing meals and cleaning the kitchen.
You are, however, also a distracted eater.
Although the industrialized world feels the need to multitask, we may be undermining our health when it comes to eating and drinking without paying attention.
Your body regulates hunger and satiety through a complex interaction of physical signals and sensory cues. Research shows that eating while distracted can prolong your eating time and reduce the interval between meals. This leads to taking in more calories than needed, and that usually leads to weight gain.
Hunger and Fullness
When you're physiologically hungry, you need food. Hunger signals range from an empty feeling in your stomach, to stomach growling, headaches, lightheadedness, irritability, and/or stomach pains.
Satiety, or fullness, occurs when the body no longer feels hungry. There are physiological and sensory cues your body gives when it's satisfied or sated. For instance, when you're full, your midline might feel a bit stretched.
If you are engaged in another activity while eating, it can be hard to detect the subtle feeling of satiety. For example, when driving, you need to pay attention to the road. That means you can't focus on what you're eating, if you're still hungry, or if you've had enough to eat. Most people continue eating, while distracted, until all the food is gone.
There's More to Eating
Eating and drinking are intricately involved with the senses. You see food, hear it cook, touch it, smell it, and then taste it.
Try to uncouple eating from other activities. If you track what you eat in a food record, note of other activities you do while eating. Notice where you are, whom you're with, and note the time. You're looking for patterns or behavior chains that you can break.
In the meantime,
- Eat at the table.
- Set the table with dinnerware, silverware, placemats and napkins, and maybe even candles,
- Pick a place in the kitchen or dining room at home and at work. Pledge to eat and drink at this spot.
- Turn the television off while eating.
- If you are in the car, pull over to eat at a pit stop or take an exit to a pleasant country road.
- Bellisle, France, Dalix, Anne-Marie. Cognitive restraint can be offset by distraction, leading to increased meal intake in women. Am J Clin Nutr, 2001, August: Vol. 74, No. 2, 197-200.
- Brunstrom JM, Mitchell GL. Effects of distraction on the development of satiety. Br J Nutr 2006; 96:761-9.
- Tribole, Evelyn. Resch, Elyse. Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works. St. Martin's Griffin, New York, 2003.