Eating on the Run Might Mean Eating More Later
Study found women gobbled more food down after snacking while walking
Eating "on the go" may thwart people who are watching their weight, new research suggests.
The study, involving three groups each with 20 women, tested the effects of various forms of "distracted" snacking -- eating while walking, watching TV or having a conversation. It found that among women who were currently dieting, eating while moving had an undesirable effect: They ate substantially more than other dieters a short time later.
"In the real world there are many other factors -- such as [food] availability, mood and peer pressure -- that influence what and how much we eat," said lead researcher Jane Ogden, a professor of health psychology at the University of Surrey, in England. "But," she added, "the results from this study indicate that for dieters, eating on the go may well lead to them overeating later on in the day."
Why would that be? According to Ogden, it may be a mental effect: People who eat on the run may not be fully aware of what they're eating, or they may feel like they "deserve" more food later on because they are being active.
In contrast, their calorie intake, just a short time later, was substantially higher than that of dieters who'd snacked while watching TV or having a conversation. Jennifer McDaniel, a registered dietitian, agreed that dieters who eat on the go might feel they've earned the right to indulge. "We often overestimate how much we burn when we move, and I believe that even walking for a mere five minutes potentially justified the intake of [chocolate]," said McDaniel, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
A long-term study is necessary to answer that question, McDaniel said. Even then, she noted, it could be tough to weed out the effects of eating on the run: People who sit down to eat "mindfully" are also more likely to choose nutritious foods and have other healthy habits, while those who eat on the run may be downing a lot of processed convenience foods.
"Focusing on what we eat allows us to slow down, and actually taste the flavors and textures of the food," McDaniel said. That, she added, may help you feel more satisfied and eat less at that meal -- and possibly the next. "It's important to punctuate your day with breaks so that you can recharge and take stock as a means to relieve stress and work more effectively," Ogden said. "It's also important to turn eating into an occasion so that food is registered and eaten mindfully. Putting these two needs together make sense."
SOURCES: Jane Ogden, Ph.D., professor, health psychology, University of Surrey, U.K.; Jennifer McDaniel, R.D.N., spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Aug. 20, 2015, Journal of Health Psychology