In recent times, there has been a rise in distracted eating. Individuals prefer to eat while engaging in other activities such as watching television, using mobile phones or playing video games.

Multitasking while eating, like eating and watching television, working or hurried eating prompts you to eat more because your attention is shifted more on the other activities rather than eating. Regular practising of this act may result in excessive weight gain, subsequently chronic disease development.

However, slowing down and savouring your food helps control food intake.

Research has shown that attention and memory affect food intake. Various studies in this area conducted used at least two groups such that, one group ate a particular meal while watching television and the other ate the same meal without watching television.

The studies pointed to major conclusions which stated: being distracted while eating tends to make people eat more of a meal while paying attention to a meal had a link with less intake of food, comparatively.

The results implied that hunger may not be the only contributory factor to the quantity of food an individual consumes in a day, attention and memory may also have contributory factors.

When an individual starts to eat, it takes approximately twenty minutes for the brain to start sending out “I’m satisfied” or “I’m not hungry anymore” signals, which turns off appetite.

Hence if you are distracted when eating or eating hurriedly, you may take in more food than it’s needed in twenty minutes. This suggests that if you are not mindful of what you put in your mouth, your mind does not process that information, hence there is no storage of “I’ve eaten” in the memory bank and without a memory of having eaten, you are likely to eat more or sooner than you might have if you eat mindfully.

Mindful eating is highly recommended. It has to do with you being fully conscious or aware of exactly what you put in your mouth. It includes noticing the colours, flavours, aroma and texture of your food.

This can adequately be done when distractive acts are avoided while eating. If mindful eating is a new concept for you, start gradually. Eat one meal a day or week in a slower, more attentive manner.

Here are some tips that may help you get started:

  • Set your kitchen timer to 20 minutes, and take that time to eat a normal-sized meal.
  • Try eating with your non-dominant hand; if you’re a righty, hold your fork/spoon in your left hand when lifting food to your mouth.
  • Use chopsticks if you don’t normally use them.
  • Eat silently for five minutes, thinking about what it took to produce that meal, from the sun’s rays to the farmer to the grocer to the cook.
  • Take small bites and chew well.
  • Before opening the fridge or cabinet, take a breath and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” Do something else, like reading or going on a short walk.

Mindful eating can contribute in reducing your daily calorie intake, ultimately, reducing the risk of obesity. By paying attention to what you eat, you are likely to make healthy food choices which will promote overall health and wellbeing. You will also get to enjoy your meals and snacks more fully. I will be speaking on this and other topics at the Nutrition Talk. The programme dubbed, personalise your plate, is a collaboration between KNUST wellness Centre and WiSTEM Gh with support from the Sport directorate.

Mary Adjepong (PhD. RD.)

Lecturer, Department of Biochemistry, KNUST. 

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