Eating whilst distracted

We are rarely eating whilst undistracted now, and one of those things that distracts us each day is driving or is it the other way around, did you know that eating whilst driving increases the likelihood of having an accident significantly!

Many of us are eating whilst driving because we’ve not got up in time to eat properly ourselves, we’ve focused our limited time on feeding the kids on the way to school which then leaves us grabbing something ourselves to eat in the car. How many times have we run late for a meeting and ended up eating a sandwich we’ve just picked up along with the petrol on the way whilst sitting in traffic behind the wheel.

But these food and driving distractions not only cause accidents but also cause us to eat mindlessly, with no thought to the food we have just decided to fuel ourselves with. This food mostly could be anything, and it’s often anything but nutritious, and we settle for less in quality and taste as long as it keeps us going and is quick and easy to eat. Once we’ve filled our empty stomachs we carry on with what we were doing which has become far more important, but in reality the statistics show that it’s actually quite a big deal to grab food to eat in your car accident wise, never mind the digestive issues that it can then cause.

70% of us in a survey by Exxon admitted that we had been eating whilst driving, I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t do it or hasn’t done it in the past. When we are distracted whilst eating we are unaware of the decisions around food choices that we are making and I believe this is why we settle for so much less in regards to food quality, because in reality we haven’t a clue we are even eating half the time. The food manufacturers and confectionery companies want us to be distracted I believe so that we eat more, we eat it quicker, and we settle for the poor quality they provide us with.

The environment we are in influences our decision making significantly, it’s acts as a trigger more often than we realise. Many years ago I had a client who’s diet diary looked amazing, she had been referred by another nutritionist who just couldn’t work out why they were overweight, because it was perfect and they were adhering on paper to all the advice.

On digging about the day they had, I found that the meals they had were great, but they stopped for petrol regularly at the same time each day, and of course they don’t just sell petrol nowadays they are designed to entice you to buy snacks. I found that they picked up a number of snacks for the car journey each time. Mostly ice cream which had to be eaten quickly to not melt, so each stop had an ice cream snack, and often more than once a day. The petrol station was a trigger and they never thought twice about it, because it was done so mindlessly they were forgetting it was happening, similar to the journey you take to work most days becomes, can you remember most of it?

It’s not just locations that act as triggers. It can be linked with the size of the bowl or plate we have, the size of the packet of food we are using can also be influential, the manufacturers know this, they supersized for years. The share packs of sweets and crisps are a way of getting us all to eat more, when was the last time you portioned one of these out?

How near or far the plate is away from us that holds the food also matters. The amount of food available is a factor, the people around us who tell us to stop or eat more, the portion sizes we are given they all make a difference to what we end up eating and how much. It becomes a norm and we accept those triggers all the time without thought, leaving us completely unaware of our food decisions and forgetting what we have eaten never mind even made the decision to eat.

One trigger most of us will recognise is the cinema, it’s a good place to see this happening, before the film has even started people will have finished off very large sizes of popcorn, or crisps portioned to be shared, but eaten more often than not by one individual. If you watch Gogglebox one of the families with 2 boys always have buns or sandwiches in front of them, last time was jam tarts.

As we know around Christmas the cue’s for eating are surrounding us, and it’s hard to say no to the next mince pie that’s offered to us and the dessert compartment of the stomach is always ready I find even if you couldn’t eat one more piece of dinner. It’s the just one more wafer thin mint scenario and all that.

Knowing that our environment is influential in our decision making can influence how you set it up for yourself. In many respects we know this, if food is left on the side in the kitchen or on a child’s plate you are clearing away lot’s of my clients will just go past and eat it rather than waste it. The buffet is a great example as well where we tend to eat far more than we need, piling our plates up a number of times forgetting the last plateful that we ate. The supermarkets know that if they display foods in a supermarket a certain way, with those lovely smells, that we are likely to buy more of them than we actually need. Reducing or becoming mindful of these triggers to eat, and becoming more mindful about the choices we make will make a difference to your health over time.

Mindlessly eating also moves into the arena where a lot of us now are eating just to get it out of the way with so we try and do it as quickly as we can. It’s become a hindrance in our lives rather than a factor which is absolutely key for good health. My mother used to work at the table we ate at and she needed to get back to working quickly, so our dinner times were a rushed affair at times. We learnt the art of eating quickly to help her out but digestively it was a disaster. I had a lot of hiccups, in fact I had them all the time so it used to be the norm for me to have them, I never realised it was due to how quickly I was eating.

More of us are realising that we need to do things more slowly and that includes eating, and taking the time to digest our food, we know it is important but time limits and our to do list rule. I remember the French engineers at work would take 2 hour lunch breaks and all eat together, this was a massive talking point for us all because it was unknown, not only about the fact that no one ate the canteen food and enjoyed it at work! But that they would have 3 courses of it and all seemed in good spirits whilst eating and talking. In comparison we would be eating at our desks as fast as we could whilst continuing with our work. Not focusing on our food at all. I couldn’t tell you what I ate most of the time, and I certainly never remember enjoying it.

So if we know that our environment influences our food choices, changing your own environment to support mindful eating such as changing choices of plates, being aware of portion sizes, and types of foods such as wholefoods over processed will help.

By surrounding yourself with the healthy wholefood choices will help you to keep to your good intentions for eating healthily in the new year. Make simple swaps from white bread to wholegrain, do the same with pasta, and noodles, move away from sweets to fruit or dried fruit as a choice, and instead of that calorie dense drink, have water instead or sweeten it with fruit.

Structure your eating habits so that you are able to focus on your food when preparing, and remove distractions, this will help you to remember what you have eaten and keep portion sizes smaller and under your control.

Get to bed earlier so you can get up earlier and in time to eat properly with the family at breakfast. More often than not we are only up late because we are distracted by the television or Netflix. Is this more important than your health?

We all know there are foods that are easier to just eat than others, they just seem to have your name on them, and these foods will be different for each of us. Make small changes such as not buying so much of it each week if it’s hard to resist, or make high calorie nutritionally poor foods choices for high days and holidays and make sure it’s just not readily available the rest of the time.

Focusing on the food whilst eating it will help you become aware of what you are eating and if you are actually enjoying it! It will help with satiety because we eat with our eyes, and other senses as well.

Take your time over what you are eating, and enjoy it, nutrition isn’t just about what you are eating, it’s about how you are eating it as well as when you are eating it, and your emotions linked to eating it.

It all matters, nothing can be seen in isolation if you want good health.


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