Can Eating While Distracted Cause Weight Gain?

Gain weight eating at work eating while driving

Do you ever think about how many of your meals you eat while distracted? Seriously think about it.


Think about how often you just have to have something on the TV while you eat.


How many times have you found yourself with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand occupied by the sandwich or burrito you just grabbed from Panera or Chipotle?


Or the fact that you never get formal lunch breaks and end up chowing on takeout or even digging into your healthy meal prep over a keyboard with a phone pressed between your ear and shoulder?


*raises hand shyly*


I mean, we’re busy people! At least I know I am. But, has it ever crossed your mind that this habit could lead to some overeating and weight gain, especially for those eating to lose fat?


Well, a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology says that it could do just that.


Researchers asked 60 adult females who were either dieters or non-dieters. They gave women from both groups a cereal bar to eat under three different conditions. The first group was asked to watch a five-minute clip of Friends while eating.


I'd prefer The Big Bang Theory, but, hey, they didn't ask me.


The second group was asked to take a walk while eating, and the third group was simply asked to sit and have a conversation with a friend while eating.


After the experiment, participants were given more snacks, including chocolate, carrot sticks, grapes and chips in order to measure how much they ate. Out of all the women, those who were both the dieters and walkers ate more snacks than the other two groups (the “Friends” and conversation group).


Specifically, the walking group ate five times more chocolate.


This brought the conclusion that eating while on the go, namely eating while walking or driving, may make dieters overeat later in the day due to these actions being a powerful form of distraction.


The study also notes that any form of distraction this powerful, such as eating at our desk while blasting out emails, can lead to weight gain. So why is this?


This is because you are not eating mindfully when eating on the go or similarly distracted. Since we are not consciously sitting down to enjoy our food by building a connection with it, our minds don’t entirely recognize the food that has been eaten.


Therefore, it does not efficiently communicate to the stomach that you are full because you were not concentrating on the act of taking in food, but rather just eating for survival in response to hunger cues.


So what can be done?


One idea is to schedule your eating times the same way you schedule your meetings or other obligations. Even if you can only fit in 15-20 minutes to sit down and concentrate on enjoying your food, this can prevent overeating during your lunch or later on in the day by strengthening that mind-stomach connection. You also build a better relationship with food and can experience it as nourishment rather than consuming it like a job.


If weight loss is your goal, even if you diligently prep your meals with perfect portions and healthy ingredients, if you aren’t taking the time to savor your food and build a connection with it, you could still end up eating too much afterward in the form of extra snacks or serving yourself more than normal at dinner.


This could end in you sabotaging your weight loss without even realizing it or even gaining unwanted weight.


The bottom line? Take your time. Enjoy your food. You’ll be happier, feel fuller, more fulfilled and leaner because of it. But more important than being lean is having a good relationship with your food and what it does to nourish both your body and mind.