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To Eat Mindfully, Sit Down and Eat

  • Eating

Worried about overeating? Eat while sitting down. If you’re putting effort into becoming a “normal” eater, what could be more important than taking your seat and paying attention to the food in front of you? Science says that’s how to eat less.

A small study conducted at the University of Surrey and published in the Journal of Health Psychology tested women’s eating habits (“If you want to lose weight, eat sitting down” by Leigh Weingus, Huffington Post, 8/24/15). The study involved both participants who were focused on weight loss and those who weren’t. It divided the women, who were each given a granola bar to eat, into three groups: one watched a short clip of the TV show “Friends,” a second was told to eat while walking down a hallway, and a third was instructed to sit and eat while having a conversation with another person. All participants then filled out a questionnaire and were given a taste test with “four different snack options: chocolate, grapes, chips and carrot sticks.”

The results: “Interestingly, those who were trying to lose weight ate more snacks if they’d eaten the granola bar while walking around.” And, guess how much more chocolate they ate—five times more! Can you say distracted eating? The study’s lead author, Jane Ogden, a psychology professor, concluded that “Walking is a powerful form of distraction which disrupts our ability to process the impact eating has on our hunger…” and that the increased in eating may be “because walking, even just around a corridor, can be regarded as a form of exercise which justifies overeating later on as form of reward.”

The article goes on to say that “Studies have even shown that mindful eaters have lower BMIs” than non-mindful eaters. Why do you consume food while distracted when everything you’ve ever read says that this will only lead to mindless eating or overeating? Is this merely a habit and you don’t realize that you get up to do something while you’re eating? Are you already in an activity and grab food without thinking about it? Do you believe that you can’t take time to eat in order to get everything done on your busy, tight schedule? Or does your mind grow uneasy with unwanted thoughts when you stop and do nothing but eat?

Whatever your reasoning, make an effort to sit down and eat. Discover for yourself if you enjoy food more, stay more connected to appetite, and find it easier to stop when you’re satiated. Studies are great, but pay attention to your own experience as well.