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Remove These Mealtime Distractions to Lose Weight

Sometimes it isn’t what you eat, but how you eat that can make all the difference in the world.


What kind of an eater are you? Think about how you eat each meal. At breakfast, are you grabbing a biscuit or granola bar to eat in the car on the way to work? Do you work through your lunch break, eating a sandwich at your desk? During dinner, are you eating together as a family or eating mindlessly while watching TV?

Mindless Eating
Being distracted during your meals – or mindless eating – often leads to eating more. Obviously, eating too much (AKA too many calories) can hamper your weight loss efforts. While you may have worked very hard to change the types of foods you eat to more healthy fare, you may also want to spend some time thinking about where and how you eat each meal to optimize your diet plans.

Researchers at Brigham Young University and Colorado State University emphasize the need to remove noisy distractions from meal time. Take out your earbuds during lung, turn off the TV during dinner. Why? The sounds you make while eating may actually effect how much you end up eating – and how many calories you consume during a meal.

Reducing Distractions
They call it the “Crunch Effect.” If you are more conscious of the sound your food makes while eating, you could reduce your consumption, says Gina Mohr and Ryan Elder, assistant professors at BYU. In fact, you could decrease your calorie intake by as much as 25%.

"When you mask the sound of consumption, like when you watch TV while eating, you take away one of those senses and it may cause you to eat more than you would normally," Elder said. "The effects many not seem huge--one less pretzel--but over the course of a week, month, or year, it could really add up."

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While this may be the first study to focus on the sounds you make while eating, distracted eating and mindless eating have been a topic of research for some time. Evelyn Tribole MS RD states that when you try to multi-task during a meal, you eat faster, feel less satisfied during a meal, and you make poor food choices. One study found that if you eat mindlessly at one meal, you are much more likely to then overeat later in the day – leading to even more intake of excess calories!

Start today eating with focus
Today, pick one meal and purposefully eat it slower and with more attention.
• Wake up a few minutes earlier so that you can eat breakfast at your table rather than in your car. Plan the meal the night before so that you aren’t rushed.
• Get out of your office to eat lunch – maybe to a nearby park if the weather is nice. Enjoy the sounds of nature while you eat instead of computer noise.
• Family time together at dinner has so many benefits for everyone, including eating more healthful meals and eating fewer junk calories.

Other tips:
• Set your kitchen timer to 20 minutes, and take that time to eat a normal-sized meal.
• Try eating with your non-dominant hand; if you’re a righty, hold your fork in your left hand when lifting food to your mouth.
• Use chopsticks if you don’t normally use them.
• Eat silently for five minutes, thinking about what it took to produce that meal, from the sun’s rays to the farmer to the grocer to the cook.
• Take small bites and chew well.
• Before opening the fridge or cabinet, take a breath and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” Do something else, like reading or going on a short walk.

Journal References:
1. Ryan S. Elder, Gina S. Mohr. The crunch effect: Food sound salience as a consumption monitoring cue. Food Quality and Preference, 2016; 51: 39 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodqual.2016.02.015
2. Oldham Cooper RE et al. Playing a computer game during lunch affects fullness, memory for lunch and later snack intake. Am J Clin Nutr 2011 93: February 308-313

Additional Resources:
Harvard Health Productions: Distracted Eating May Lead to Weight Gain, March 2013

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