Eating in cars and in front of the TV is making us fat

Attention deficit dining

I’ve long lamented the fact that, as a society, we just don’t take enough time to enjoy our food.

We eat in our cars. We eat in front of the television. We’ll happily eat anywhere and anytime, it seems, except sitting down at a table during mealtime.

And you know what? It’s making us fat.

Just so you don’t think I’m overstating the problem, allow me to share the results of a recent study that appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In it, researchers reviewed 24 studies. They all looked at the effect that factors like memory, awareness, and attention have on an individual’s food intake. And the results are the best testament to the importance of a distraction-free dinnertime I’ve seen yet.

The researchers discovered that dining while distracted can increase the amount you eat in one sitting by 10 percent. But it has an even greater effect on the amount you consume at your next meal–boosting later calorie intake by more than 25 percent.

As you might expect, focusing on the size of the meals you’ve already consumed can have the opposite effect–reducing later food intake by about 10 percent. But of course, this would require actually paying attention to what you eat in the first place.

The bottom line? Turn off the TV, pull up a seat, and really savor that dinner on your plate. Because the takeaway here couldn’t be more clear.

Memorable meals–not calorie-counting or crash diets–are the real secret to staying thin.

“Distracted eaters tend to take in more calories.” Reuters. 18 March 2013.
“Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Feb 27.