Eating while watching TV or playing with electronic devices is a common habit nowadays, but though seemingly innocuous, it can lead to unintentional calorie consumption resulting in weight gain, the John Tung Foundation warned.
“UK researchers have discovered that people who are in the habit of not paying attention to what they are eating often consume more calories than they realize,” the foundation said.
A US study in 2006 also found that people who watch television while eating consume an average of 793.7 calories per meal, compared with the 538.2 calories eaten by those who eat while listening to music, it added.
Hsu Hui-yu (許惠玉), director of the foundation’s Department of Food and Nutrition, said people are inclined to underestimate the importance of undistracted dining and paying attention to what they eat.
“During busy weekdays, a lot of people consistently eat whatever food is most convenient and wolf down their meals in minutes. Then, when the weekend comes, they end up binge eating to make up for lost calories,” Hsu said.
Hsu said that the key to avoiding unwanted weight gain lies in undistracted dining and chewing food carefully, because hurried or inattentive eating can result in the brain delaying signaling a feeling of fullness, thereby prompting the person to eat more than they need to.
Insufficient chewing can lead to indigestion and gastric distention, Hsu said, adding that inappropriate dining habits can also impede efforts to keep off lost weight.
The foundation said people should focus on the joy of eating because it can bring them a sense of satisfaction and a pleasant fullness.