There have been many studies that have shown that people tend to consume more food if they are eating in front of the TV than they would if they ate at the kitchen table. This is because the TV can distract us which make us lose track of how much we have eaten and we tend to ignore our bodies hunger/satiety cues. A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition took a look at whether eating in front of the computer also affects the amount of food people consume, and it is probably no surprise that they concluded that it does.
Interestingly, this study did not take a look at how much food was consumed at the meal eaten in front of the computer, but rather how it influenced eating patterns later. In this study of 44 men and women, half were given a lunch and ate with no distractions and the other half ate the same lunch while playing computer games. Thirty minutes later, they were offered cookies and told to take as many as they wanted. The people who were distracted with the computer during lunch ate twice as many cookies (~250 calories) as those who were not distracted at lunch.
While this study cannot determine why people ate more after a meal where they were distracted, the researchers speculate that our memory of what we ate at a meal influences our food choices later. The group who was distracted had more trouble recalling the order that the food was served and reported feeling less full compared to the group with no distraction.
The bottom line is pay attention to what you eat. When you are mindful of what you eat, you tend to feel fuller on fewer calories and get more enjoyment out of less food. When you’re distracted, you may underestimate what you have eaten, and since you never enjoyed the food, you may overdo it later. So when you sit down at the next meal, turn of the TV, step away from the computer and put down the newspaper. Our health is well worth the few minutes of undivided attention!
For more information, check out last week’s article “Does Eating in Front of Your Computer Make You Pig Out?” at MSNBC.com.