16 Dec Eating in front of a screen, probably not the best idea…

One of the most common causes of overeating is that we often forget to pay attention to the food that we’re putting in our mouths. Try to imagine a cold night, you’re sitting in a comfy couch, under your blanket, with a big plate of food in front of you. You’re watching a movie, or a series, or a show. All of a sudden, you hear the clinking sound of your fork hitting the empty plate, and your food’s all gone!

You realize that you don’t remember eating that much, but the truth is you did. It’s actually quite normal, the act of watching TV or something on your computer overrides the thought process that goes into paying attention to your food, mostly because eating is kind of like breathing; you’ve done it so many times that you don’t actually need to think about it when you do it.

“How does this relate to my weight?”

A recent literature review done in 2014 and discussed in the 23rd European Childhood Obesity Group Congress showed that our eating behaviours can change when we’re watching TV. Specifically, the distraction that television provides attracts our attention so much, that we literally ignore the signals that our body uses to indicate the end of a meal.

When free of distractions, the end of a meal is usually initiated by a psychological cue, which is a gradual reduction in our desire to eat, followed by a physical cue, which is the onset of fullness. The first can be easily overlooked if our attention is drawn elsewhere. The second, while more noticeable, is still susceptible to being ignored.

Effectively, you may keep eating past your needs. It will result in you consuming more energy and a larger volume of food than what you normally should. There’s two problems to watch out for here:

1) The extra energy will be stored as fat, resulting in weight-gain. That’s pretty straightforward.

2) The extra volume of food will stretch your stomach slightly. If your stomach grows larger, then it will need more food to signal that it is full. As a result, you’ll start to naturally consume more energy than before, resulting in further weight-gain.

“What can I do about it?”

  • It sounds pretty obvious, but having a meal away from the television is the first step to avoid overeating.
  • In general, try to have as few distractions as possible during a meal. Don’t think about work, don’t check your phone every two minutes, just focus on the food in front of you.
  • Try to make every meal a ritual. Put your food in a plate, sit down, look at your food, eat it slowly. Even if you’re at work, try to actually take a lunch break and follow this simple steps. (I’m looking at you, person who eats at the office in front of a computer!)