Picture this: You’re sitting in a movie theater, popcorn and soda in hand, chatting with friends and waiting for the show to start. Finally, the lights go down and you reach for the popcorn and you realize you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. That’s right—you managed to eat the whole thing while you weren’t paying attention.
The good news is you’re not alone. A new study of healthy-weight women revealed that even restrained eaters consumed significantly more calories when they were distracted than when they were alone without outside stimuli.
Researchers from Hospital Hotel-Dieu in Paris, France, recruited 41 women, ages 26 to 55, to eat lunch once a week under four different conditions in a laboratory setting. They are alone without distraction, alone while listening to recorded instruction on how to focus on the taste of their food, and alone while listening to a tape of a detective story. And they ate lunch with three other women who were also participating in the study. Despite reporting equal levels of hunger under all four conditions, they ate considerably more calories while listening to the detective story. Researchers recommend that people who wish to maintain or lose weight avoid eating while watching TV, talking on the phone or listening to music, all activities capable of derailing even the best weight-loss efforts.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2001, 74, 197-200