According to research recently published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eliminating distractions, and paying close attention to what you eat will influence the amount of food a person consumes.
In an analysis of 24 studies, the researchers claimed distractions can lead to increased eating, but more importantly, can have even more influence on future eating.
“We combined studies by using inverse variance meta-analysis, calculating the standardized mean difference (SMD) in food intake between experimental and control groups and assessing heterogeneity with the I2 statistic.”
The researchers explained that distractions can prevent or reduce a person’s ability to scrupulously recognize the pleasure of food being eaten in the present moment, and that can lead to increased consumption of food.
Additionally, focusing on that moment of excess indulgence enhances the future memory of binge eating on too much food, and later reduces consumption.
Researchers also noted that if the last meal was remembered as filling and satisfying, that memory inhibits future intake.
The researchers stressed that memory is the key. And the appeal could be that incorporating “attentive-eating principles” into people’s habits could help with weight loss and maintenance “without the need for conscious calorie counting.”
The current studies differed from other strategies, the researchers noted, such as eating slowly and mental training focusing on studies that manipulated attention to food and memory.
“However, it is not clear what aspects of memory are important,” the researchers wrote. “Vividness of memory imagery, memory for food eaten, and memory of calories consumed were all associated with changes to food intake.”
The researchers mention some complicating factors:
“For example, eating alone may be less distracting than eating with other people. But eating with others has benefits, such as helping a family adopt healthy habits. So the advice might be better to avoid TV or the computer while eating,” they said.
In experiments, researchers found that cuing or enhancing food memories led to eating less. “Similarly, keeping food wrappers and other cues of what’s consumed also can help with food memories.”
Using memory as a visual aid to lose weight, as was highlighted in this study, is similar in nature to “visualization” or “guided imagery,” in which imagery is used to enhance an athlete’s performance or as an aid in fighting cancer.
“When properly constructed, imagery has the built-in capacity to deliver multiple layers of complex, encoded messages by way of simple symbols and metaphors. You could say it acts like a depth charge dropped beneath the surface of the ‘bodymind’, where it can reverberate again and again.”