By Haley Kinder, Dietetic Intern, Texas A&M University
Reviewed by: Katy Bowen, MS, RDN, LD
Have you ever grabbed a bag of potato chips for a snack, sat down in front of the tv, and the next thing you know, your hand is scraping at the bottom of the bag? You’re thinking, “No way! How did I eat this much?” This is very common and has happened to almost everyone at some point in their life. Sometimes we just don’t pay attention when we eat—this is called distracted eating. Your body is so smart. It tells you when you’re hungry and need fuel, and it also tells you when you’re full. When you eat while you’re distracted, you aren’t paying attention to those cues and you may eat when you aren’t hungry or overeat.
A group of scientists compared the eating behaviors of participants in two different conditions—a distraction condition and a no-distraction condition. In the distraction condition, the subjects ate lunch while playing solitaire, while the subjects in the no-distraction condition ate lunch in the absence of distractions. Thirty minutes later, all of the subjects participated in a biscuit taste test. They found that compared to those in the no-distraction group, the participants in the distraction conditions ate more, ate faster, reported lower fullness levels, couldn’t remember what they ate, and ate more snacks in the taste test.
Here are several tips to help reduce distracted eating:
Oldham-Cooper RE, Hardman CA, Nicoll CE, Rogers PJ, Brunstrom JM. Playing a computer game during lunch affects fullness, memory for lunch, and later snack intake. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;93(2):308-313. doi:10.3945/ajcn.110.004580