In our society, we are programmed to eat while watching a screen. Getting together with friends to watch a movie? Order a pizza. Going to the theaters? Wait in line for a bucket of popcorn. Watching television after a long day of classes? Pull the chips out of the pantry.
The problem with this habit is we lose track of how much we consume in a day. The visual stimulus distracts one’s attention from the action of eating, and therefore increases meal size and total consumption. This, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports, may be a contributing factor towards overeating and obesity.
In a study, reports The New York Times, 22 individuals were assigned to eat a meal while playing a computer game, while another 22, who were undistracted, ate the same meal in the same amount of time. The point of the study was to see how full the subjects felt after a meal, how much they consumed half an hour later, and how accurately they could recall what they had ingested.
As it turns out, the individuals who were distracted were not only worse at remembering what they ate, they were substantially less full after lunch, and as a result, they ate about twice as many of the snacks provided at the taste test as those who were undistracted by a screen when eating lunch.
This just goes to show that our fast-paced, on-the-go lifestyle is not the healthiest out there. According to www.helpguide.org, eating with others is a great way to maintain a balanced diet. It has many social and emotional benefits and helps prevent absentminded overeating.
In addition to eating with others, the website recommends eating smaller portions, taking time to enjoy meals and listening to one’s body. Give time to process what has already been consumed, as “it actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food.”
As the website rightly says, “Healthy eating is not about strict nutrition philosophies, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about feeling great, having more energy, and keeping yourself as healthy as possible.”
Other cultures in the world, such as the Arab, Mediterranean and Hispanic cultures, seem to have gotten this right. Meals are very much considered social events, to be shared with family and friends. It’s something that we could stand to learn, for our own sakes.
Between work, school and everything else in life, it’s understandable that we get caught up in the moment and are always in a rush. However, it’s also important we think of our health, because that, in the large scope of things, is the most important thing.
Good health is not something that can be replaced or bought, and it is absolutely essential that we take care of ourselves. Take those 45 minutes you have for lunch and meet up with some friends. You’ll have a blast, and it’s healthy!