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Get Rid of Distractions

Get Rid of Distractions

It’s been the norm for quite some time now to eat meals and snack in front of the television. Some of our favorite sitcoms – not to mention the news – come on at dinner time and there was no way to record and watch them later until the advent of DVRs.

This habit has wrecked eating habits and made family dinners a thing of the past for most Americans. In Europe and Asia, people still sit down as a family for meals, which is precisely why those countries have less obesity than America.


Working on the computer while you eat is also a way to consume mindless calories and not even be aware of the delicious food you’re eating. Shoving pizza in your mouth as you play a fast-paced game doesn’t do much for your digestion either.


Halting the habit of mindless eating can cut calories and help you enjoy your food more – plus, make you healthier because you eat slower and in a place of serenity rather than a place that breeds chaos.


Distractions Keep You from Enjoying Your Food


You’re missing a lot when you choose to eat your meals in front of the television or engage in other distractions. You don’t really savor the special textures, flavors or aromas of a well-thought-out meal, nor do you give your body a chance to communicate with your brain, telling you when you’ve had enough.


We’ve all salivated over the aroma of a savory roast in the crock pot, cookies or bread baking in the oven or fresh coffee, bacon and eggs in the early morning. There’s a theory that eating by following your senses can help you lose weight.


When you focus on the texture, taste, aroma, sight and touch of food, you’re less likely to overeat. But, being able to focus on the meals you’re eating means that you must get rid of the distractions that are taking away the power of those senses and causing you to engage in mindless eating habits.


Presentation (sight) is very important in the process of enjoying your food. A roasted chicken, cut up and plopped on a platter is much less appetizing than the same chicken placed on a platter with roasted potatoes, onions and carrots surrounding it – and perhaps a sprig or two of parsley for a pop of color.


Eating by using your senses is the missing ingredient in most meals today. Weight loss experts call it a “sensory disregard,” and consider it a portent of overeating and eventual obesity.


This means that if you’re not enjoying each meal through your senses, you’re likely going to keep eating until you’re way over the food intake for one meal. Some tricks to enjoy your food even more by paying attention to your sense include drizzling extra virgin olive oil over fresh salad greens or over warm, whole-grain bread.


Pay close attention to your table setting and be sure everything is colorful and serene. Also, savor each bite for taste and texture to determine whether it’s sweet, salty, bitter or another taste.


Feeding your senses requires you to seek and develop a new relationship with food. This new habit can transform how you think about meals and drastically cut your calories to help you lose weight.


How Distractions Cause Weight Gain


Distractions cause your body to store more fat than it should because it doesn’t work at its peak efficiency when you’re distracted. Nutrients aren’t processed as effectively as they should be and your body is tricked into believing that you need more calories to produce energy.


Your brain is concentrating on the distraction rather than the meal and forgets to send the message to your stomach to quit eating – you’ve had enough. The distraction causes you to eat much more than it needs at the moment and ends up storing it as – fat.


Eventually, you’ll suffer the domino effect that distractions cause by having a stomach that’s too large so it can take on the extra food that’s being consumed. You may not feel full anymore, even after eating a large, high calorie meal.


So, you go back to the kitchen for snacks to munch on in the front of the television or computer. More mindless eating. To stop this endless cycle of eating while being distracted, you’ve got to realize what is distracting you.


If it’s the television, the answer is simple. Turn it off, eat in another room and record the programs for another time, when you’re not eating. Have you noticed how you eat when you’re engrossed in a favorite program or good movie?


If you’re in the theater, you’re likely shoving popcorn or Junior Mints into your mouth at an astounding rate. You might as well be eating the box as what’s in it for all the satisfaction you’re getting.


Many of us eat at the table, but bring a magazine, newspaper or book to the table to “have something to do” while eating. Kids now bring cell phones to the table and text their friends while at the meal table.


Even music may be a distraction if it’s played to the tune of a fast beat because it makes you want to eat faster. Some restaurants purposely play an upbeat tempo in the background.


Although you may not be aware of the actual music, the beat causes you to eat faster and leave earlier so other customers can take your place. No matter what distractions you’re prone to at mealtimes, your brain doesn’t register that you have reached maximum capacity in your stomach and you just keep eating.


Techniques for Focusing on the Meal


Allowing distractions during meals is a bad habit that can be broken with some forethought and planning. After you learn these techniques and put them into practice, you’ll be surprised at how much less you’re eating and how much better and more satisfied you feel.


Always sit at a nicely set table, free from books, gadgets and phones and away from the television, computer or any other thing that may constitute a distraction. Rather than putting bowls and platters on the table, fill your plate from the stove or countertop with smaller portions than you’re used to.


One technique that mindful eating enthusiasts advocate is to put less food on your fork or spoon. This one little trick will give you more bang for the buck at your meals by providing more bites, but less food – and calories.


After each bite, put down your knife and fork and remove your hands from the table. Chew your food slowly and savor the flavors, textures and aromas. This serves to help you enjoy your food so much more and become satisfied with less.


Don’t pick up your knife and fork again until you’ve chewed and swallowed the last bite you put in your mouth. No matter how much food is left on the plate – stop when you feel full and satisfied.


The fact that you’re eating slower gives your brain time to register the contents of your stomach and stops you from wanting more when you’re full. Your digestive system will become more efficient in channeling your nutrients to the proper areas and getting rid of the intake of fat that you don’t need rather than storing it.


Your metabolism also works much more efficiently and will keep working even after the meal to burn extra calories rather than getting bogged down with an overload that makes it sluggish and ineffective.


It’s been proven that a colorful plate of food is likely filled with the nutrition you need for optimum health. Be sure the color green is represented in salads or healthy greens. Orange carrots and brown, multi-grain bread also add to the color scheme of a healthy meal.


Developing mindful eating habits should also steer you clear of processed foods and unhealthy items such as foods fried in animal fat and snacks laden with sugar and chemicals.


Next time you plan a meal, incorporate some of the above methods. It may take a while, but you’ll soon find that you’re enjoying the new eating habits and are gaining a new respect for food and how it should be presented – and eaten.


Distractions Discourage Mindful Eating


There is a concept derived from the Buddhist belief of being totally aware of what is happening around you and within your body at every waking moment. This concept is believed to reduce stress and help alleviate chronic health problems such as digestive and blood pressure ailments.


The mindful eating concept is derived from this Buddhist belief and encourages people to keep from eating too much food and to stay away from processed and unhealthy foods.


When you’re aware of what you’re eating – and the senses are completely involved, you’re more thoughtful about how much you eat. It’s a way of helping the brain communicate with the gut by sending signals that are not ignored because you’re distracted by something else while you’re eating.


The hormones involved in the digestion process connects the nervous system to the gut and may take up to 20 minutes for the brain to get the signal that it’s satisfied and ready to quit eating.


If you eat too quickly (while watching television or reading a book), you’ll likely not give the connection enough time to get and respond to the signals. Mindful eating has also been studied as a strategy for binge-eaters and others with eating disorders which lead to obesity.


In a recent study involving 150 binge-eaters, it was concluded that mindfulness-based therapy helped the control group enjoy their food more and eat less. As with any new way of eating, begin the mindful eating process gradually.


Start with a meal once a week in which you consume it in a slower, more fixed manner rather than a helter skelter approach in front of the television, at your desk or computer. Before you begin to consume your meal, set the kitchen timer for 20 minutes and eat with your non-dominant hand (if you’re right-handed, hold the fork in your left hand to eat).


Chopsticks will also slow down the eating process if you’re not proficient at using them. Also, eat in silence for five minutes, thinking always about the food you’re consuming – the color, texture, aroma and other factors such as bitter, salty or sweet.

Think of how the food was grown and about the sunshine and rain that helped it along. Take very small bites and chew each one well. Soon, this method will add a new dimension to your enjoyment of eating.


You’ll be savoring the food rather than mindlessly scarfing it down. Remember, no distractions = less food consumption.


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