Karen's Blogs

Blogs are brief, to-the-point, conversational, and packed with information, strategies, and tips to turn troubled eaters into “normal” eaters and to help you enjoy a happier, healthier life. Sign up by clicking "Subscribe" below and they’ll arrive in your inbox. 

[No unsolicited guest blogs accepted, thank you]

More Bad News about Multitasking and Eating

Are you a habitual multitasker? More to the point regarding your food problems, how does it affect your ability to eat mindfully? I am now able to eat, and by that I mean eat “normally,” while doing any activity because for many years I practiced eating without distraction until eating mindfully became ingrained. However, you will never get to this point unless you eat with a sole focus on this one activity for quite a long while.

In his book, The Organized Mind, Daniel Levitin, a McGill University professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience, tells us why doing several activities at one time does not work: “We now know that the brain doesn’t multitask. Rather, the brain shifts rapidly from one thing to the next. That causes us to not be able to focus attention on any one thing, and this dividing of our attention makes us less efficient. The reason we think we’re good at it is just self-delusion. The brain is a very good deceiver. Multitasking puts us in a kind of dopamine addiction loop…each time we do some little new task, our brain rewards us with a tiny shot of dopamine, the pleasure neurochemical. For our ancestors, this was a motivating force to be active and get things done” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/23/14, “The science of organizing our busy lives,” page 20E). So what happens is that while you’re eating and doing another activity, you get a pop of dopamine each time you shift from one task to the other.

Levitin describes an area in the brain “just above the outside of your eyebrows” called Area 47 which “contains prediction circuits that are scanning and monitoring the environment and trying to figure out what’s going to happen next.” He says, “Keeping Area 47 happy is tricky. If everything in the environment is utterly predictable, you become bored. If it’s unpredictable, you become frustrated.” And then he offers this bit of wisdom: “Pleasure results from having Area 47 experience an optimal balance between predictability and surprise.” This reminds me of the difficulty disregulated eaters have with structure and freedom, swinging wildly from one to the other.

Now, can you understand why eating without doing anything else may initially feel dull and boring, which is why you want to do something while you’re eating or eat while you’re doing something else? Area 47 likes unpredictability, but do you have to give it some. Of course not. You can use your frontal lobes to override the urge for unpredictability by focusing on the positive rewards you’ll get from sticking to eating mindfully and “normally.” Really, is that tiny burst of dopamine from switching activities worth eating mindlessly and likely overeating?

More on Food and Mood
Changing Behavior Leads to Changing Beliefs

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.karenrkoenig.com/

This website is owned and operated by Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW. It contains material intended for informational and educational purposes only, and reasonable effort is made to keep its contents updated. Any material contained herein is not to be construed as the practice of clinical social work or of psychotherapy, although adherence to applicable Florida States, Rules, and Code of Ethics is observed. Material on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment for mental health issues or eating disorder problems, which should be done only through individualized therapeutic consultation. Karen R. Koenig, LCSW disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained on this website. This website contains links to other sites. The inclusion of such links does not necessarily constitute endorsement by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW who disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained in this website. Further, Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, does not and cannot guarantee the accuracy or current usefulness of the material contained in the linked sites. Users of any website must be aware of the limitation to confidentiality and privacy, and website usage does not carry any guarantee or privacy of any information contained therein.