‘On the go’ eating may mean eventual weight gain, says study

By Hal Conick

- Last updated on GMT

University of Surrey research says distractions created by eating at the desk or in the car can lead to overeating
University of Surrey research says distractions created by eating at the desk or in the car can lead to overeating

Related tags Nutrition Eating

Those who eat food and other snacks on the go may end up heavier and have a greater inclination for obesity, according to a recent study.

The research, published in the Journal of Health Psychology​, was undertaken by researchers at the University of Surrey​ and found that eating while moving or “on the go” could lead to more overeating than other forms of distraction, such as watching TV or having a conversation.

“This may be because walking is a powerful form of distraction which disrupts our ability to process the impact eating has on our hunger,”​ said the study’s lead author Professor Jane Ogden, of the University of Surrey. “Or it may be because walking, even just around a corridor, can be regarded as a form of exercise which justifies overeating later on as a form of reward.”

What the study found

The University of Surrey study examined 60 women, both dieters and non-dieters, and gave them a cereal bar to eat in different situations.

These situations included:

  • Watching a five minute clip of the TV show “Friends“ while eating
  • Walking around the corridor while eating
  • Sitting with a friend and having a conversation while eating the bar

After each action, the study’s participants filled out a questionnaire and underwent a taste test with chocolate, carrot sticks, grapes and chips. Researchers measured how much of the food and which items they ate after the subjects left the room.

The results showed that the participants who had eaten the cereal bar while walking ate more snacks during the taste test. The chocolate was specifically popular among the study’s walking subjects, as they ate five-times more chocolate than other involved subjects.

Is walking the biggest distraction?

Although walking was the winner in this study, Ogden said that any form of distraction, such as eating at the desk or in the car, can mean eating too much. Done in excess, this can lead to weight gain and possible obesity.

“When we don’t fully concentrate on our meals and the process of taking in food, we fall into a trap of mindless eating where we don’t track or recognize the food that has just been consumed,”​ she said.  

Journal of Health Psychology
Published August 20, 2015, doi: 10.1177/1359105315595119
'Distraction, restrained eating and disinhibition: An experimental study of food intake and the impact of ‘eating on the go’'
Authors: J. Ogden, E. Oikonomou, G. Alemany

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