Is Distracted Eating Causing us to Eat More? A Guide to Mindful Eating

About the Author: As a Registered Dietitian and Manager of Clinical and Culinary Nutrition for the Home Base Program, Nicolette provides both individual and group nutrition counseling to veterans and their families. Her primary responsibilities include serving those in the Home Base Intensive Clinical Program, New England Warrior Health & Fitness Program, and Outpatient Clinic. 

Hunger is not the only thing that influences how much we eat during the day. Attention and memory also play important roles.

Many studies have looked at how attention and memory affect food intake. In these studies, two groups were compared. One group ate a meal while distracted and another group ate the same meal without the TV distraction.

Findings from these studies shed light on two things:

Being distracted and not paying attention tended to make people eat faster and more at that meal

Paying attention to a meal was linked to eating less later on

We asked people to list the ways they feel distracted when eating. Here’s are the most common responses.

  • Watching TV
  • Phone or computer – social media, text messages, phone calls
  • Driving
  • Playing video games
  • Doing work

When we eat distracted, we miss out out on the eating experience, which often leads to repeated eating. The bottom like is, if we aren’t mindful of what’s going into our mouths, we don’t process that information, which means the process of eating does not get stories in our memory. Without the memory of ever eating, we are more likely to eat again sooner.

What do you think it would feel like to a meal eat without having any other distractions? If you’re thinking “I don’t know what I’d do…” or “I’ll be bored” …. or “I’ll feel guilty if I’m not doing something while I eat” …..please know that you are not alone.

Fortunately, mindful eating can help you enjoy meals more fully. Mindful eating is a practice that involves being fully aware of what is happening within and around you at a present moment. This includes noticing colors, smells, flavors, and textures of your food.

Are you ready for today’s challenge?
Can you eat one meal without distractions?

If mindful eating is a new concept for you, we encourage you to start gradually. Pick just one meal today and limit your distractions. Turn off the TV, close the computer, and put the phone in another room. How does that feel?

Mindful eating does not come easily right away. As a Registered Dietitian, it can be a struggle to practice mindful eating. We are all used to living a fast-paced lifestyle, often juggling multiple things at once, and it becomes our new normal. The multi-tasking filters int our eating habits, but for once, let’s all remember to incorporate mindful eating in our lives and be encouraged to put it into practice – one meal at a time.

 We want to hear from you! Follow us on social media @homebaseprogram and tell us how you incorporated mindful eating in your day today. Snap a photo of your empty plate and tag #HBHealthAtHome in your post!