Woman looking at phone, walking, and eating lunch

Eating While Performing Other Activities Can Lead to Weight Gain

Do you ever eat breakfast while driving to work, eat lunch while working at your desk or eat dinner while watching TV? If so, you may be surprised to find out that eating while multitasking can lead to weight gain. Dubbed “mindless eating,” this common phenomenon can result in accidental overeating.

Once eating is underway, the brain’s role is to send out a signal indicating fullness. If the mind is preoccupied while eating, the brain may not receive signals that regulate food intake. This can interfere with feelings of satiety and taste sensation. In addition, eating mindlessly may also mean you are eating rapidly. On average, it takes twenty minutes for the stomach to notify the brain that you’ve had enough food. Consuming food too quickly prevents you from “hearing” your body tell your brain when you are full. Slowing down your eating gives your brain a chance to hear those signals and process the feeling of being full.

Eating too quickly results in meals being consumed under a physiologic condition that hampers digestion and diminishes calorie burning. It allows us little pleasure from food, causing us to eat more in pursuit of satisfaction. Additionally, it shortens our breathing, which results in less oxygen intake and more fat accumulation. Ultimately the slower you eat, the faster you metabolize.

To slow down your food intake and speed up your metabolism, you need to switch from mindless to mindful eating. This means not only being aware of what is on your plate but also being cognizant of the entire eating experience.

Some strategies for mindful eating include:

  • Eat while sitting, preferably at a table. You might even strive for a nice place setting using place mats, napkins and glassware.
  • Eat using chopsticks or a salad fork instead of dinner fork to reduce the amount of food you can take with each bite.
  • Make eating an isolated activity. Don’t multitask with a TV, newspaper, computer or mobile device. Don’t mistake this for eating in isolation; you can still eat with good company.
  • Put down the utensils or sandwich in between each bite.
  • Sip water between bites.
  • Chew thoroughly and often. The less you chew, the less you appreciate the differences in taste, smell and texture on the plate in front of you.
  • Prepare more of your own meals. This allows you to choose the highest quality version of the food and focus on the preparation means. Just don’t eat while you are preparing the meal.

Remember, it will take some planning and patience to slow down and be more mindful about your eating. Once you master this new mindset, however, you’ll be able to enjoy benefits such as optimal digestion, metabolism, taste satisfaction, food enjoyment, and weight management.

Linda Antinoro, RD
Brigham and Women’s Nutrition and Wellness

Before you go,

Get more tips on eating well and learn about the many benefits of good nutrition. Read more nutrition articles.