For some time now, studies have shown that ‘meal memory’ (the ability to recall details about a meal you have eaten) plays an important role in appetite. In short, the greater your memory of a meal, the less you are likely to eat later. Further research has now been carried out in which the attention that participants paid to food as they ate was manipulated, and the amount of food they ate later was assessed. The results were very interesting, and can be used by many of us to improve the way we eat.
The participants were split into three studies. In the first study,they were asked to play a computer game while eating. Some were told that there was a reward for winning the game, in order to increase their motivation to engage in the distraction. Others were left to play with no incentive to win. In the second study, participants were asked to watch television while eating. Some watched food-related television, which others watched non-food-related shows. In the third study, participants were asked to either imagine watching themselves eating, or imagine watching a celebrity (David Beckham) eating, while they consumed their food.
The findings from this new research were very interesting, and included the following:
(1) Eating a meal while distracted caused an increase in later snacking and reduced the participants’ meal memory.
(2) When motivation to engage in the distraction was greater (in this case, by providing an incentive to win the computer game), the effect on later snacking and meal memory was increased.
(3) When the distraction included food-related cues (where participants were watching food-related television), the effect of the distraction was reduced.
(4) Paying attention to eating and not engaging in a distracting activity decreased later snacking.
So what should we take away from this? Distracted eating leads to later snacking. While it is so tempting in our fast-paced, technology-led, social-media filled world to check emails or watch television/podcasts/video blogs while we eat, the result is that we reduce our meal memory. This leads to an increase in subsequent food consumption, and may result in weight-gain.
I know I am a culprit of distracted eating, so I am going to make it my very-belated New Year’s Resolution to pay more attention to my food as I eat.
Rachel and Dawn says
This is really interesting reading Esther – we could definitely be a lot more “mindful” of our eating in our house. Thanks for the wake-up call… time to start paying attention. Dawn x
Thanks Dawn. Our family needs to work on the meal-time mindfulness as well.
Laís @thediabeticviking says
AMAZING information! I was never a fan of distracted eating,but after getting married we have to surrender to some of the partner’s habits… but this will end TODAY!