I am so guilty. Though we already know working with a bowl of candy next to you is a good way to add a few inches to your waist without remembering the culprit, I thought I was fooling the system. The meals I eat at work are portioned out perfectly ahead of time, so why does it matter if I multi-task lunch and plowing through my to-do list?
Oldham-Cooper and colleagues ad the University of Bristol have brought my logic to a screeching halt. Apparently mindlessly eating of controlled portions can still sabotage your goals. In this study, participants were given a standard portion of food to eat at lunch, but one group of participants ate the food and played solitaire, while the other group ate the meal in a quiet room without distractions.
A few hours after the meals, volunteers were asked to both recall the contents of their lunch meal do a "taste test" of cookies. Those who ate without distractions were able to 1) remember what they ate during the standard lunch meal; and 2) chose to eat fewer cookies during the taste test, as compared to the volunteers who played computer games during lunch. Apparently it really is better to pay attention to the meal while you're eating it!
Ironically, I'm eating cottage cheese and berries even as I type now--type a sentence--take a bite--type a sentence. What can someone do if they're having trouble kicking this habit?
1. Start by eating the big meals mindfully-- you want to be able to get your body's messages after taking in a substantial amount of energy. If you typically eat all of your meals in front of the computer, TV, or some other distraction, start with one mindful meal each day and work up from there.
2. Choose lower calorie fruits and vegetable for your multi-tasking snack. Eating plain vegetables at the computer or in front of the TV is a great way to turn your "bad" habit into a healthful choice. If you don't like the experience of eating plain veggies, don't worry--you'll forget the whole thing within a few hours ;-)