When was the last time you ate a meal at home or at work -- or even at a restaurant -- without occupying yourself in front of a screen? This article explores why people like to combine eating and entertainment, as well as the potential health consequences of doing so.
Eating without any distractions seems so boring, and I'd go as far to say it's truly difficult. There's just something undeniably comforting about rewatching episodes of your favorite sitcom, fork in hand.
Exactly why we do this varies from person to person.
My personal downfall is that my brain starts to work overtime if I'm left in silence, without a clear task for too long. When I try to eat alone and without distractions, I feel stressed and start shoveling food so I can get back to work or whatever I was doing.
Your childhood might also play a factor. If you grew up eating dinner in the living room rather than at the dining room table, there's a good chance you're inclined to do the same as an adult.
It's also partially a culture thing. Think about it -- during football season, people spend entire weekends perched on the couch with friends and more food than they could ever eat. The majority of restaurants, especially casual sit-down chains, have
on every wall. It's not at all surprising that people associate screens with food.
The going theory is that eating in front of a screen gives us a double dopamine hit. Food releases "happy chemicals" in our brains, as does entertainment (potentially to the level of addiction). Combine the two and you've got lots of feel-good things going on in your body, which makes this dynamic duo hard to resist.
Conversely, paying attention to meals (or mindfully eating) has been linked to eating less later in the day. For example, mindfully eating your breakfast might result in you eating less at lunch or dinner.
The premise of mindful eating is pretty simple: Just pay attention to your food. As simple as that is, mindful eating is surprisingly difficult. You'll have to resist the lure of the quick feel-good hits your screens offer -- here are a few tips to get started.
Put your phone away and out of sight during meal times.
Eat in a room where there isn't a TV or a computer.
Count how many times you chew a bite of food. This'll help you focus on the act of eating.
Slow down. Fully chew your food, and wait a few seconds before taking the next bite.
Enlist a friend to help out. Eat together, using only your conversation as entertainment.
At the end of the day, people do what makes them feel good. And if watching old episodes of The Office while you eat dinner makes you feel good, go for it! Just make it a point to assess how you feel mentally and physically before, during and after meals. Food journaling can help immensely with this.
And if you aren't sure whether your current mealtime routine is affecting your health, at least try mindful eating to see how it feels. As the saying goes, you never know until you know.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.