By Deborah Kesten
Some call it “multitasking”; the French call it “vagabond eating”; in the USA, it’s a growing trend. Whatever form it takes—eating a meal or snacking mindlessly while working in front of your computer, driving, watching TV, shopping, or talking on the phone—the Task Snacking overeating style that our research on Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE) uncovered—puts you at risk for overeating and in turn, increases odds of becoming overweight.1
Task Snacking: It’s a Double Weight-Whammy
How might Task Snacking, eating while distracted and multitasking, be a recipe for weight gain? Your brain cannot focus on two things at a time. Because of this, task snacking may lead you to overeat because 1) you may experience food cravings that are really a signal you’re missing some nutrients in your diet due to poor digestion; 2) and because you’re not allowing your mind and body to get the message that you’re satisfied. In this way, Task Snacking can be a double weight-whammy!
What’s a task snacker to do? Pay attention, intentionally, when you eat. In other words, practice mindfulness eating by bringing moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental awareness to each aspect of your meal. Indeed, mindfulness eating is the Whole Person Integrative Eating antidote to the Task Snacking overeating style.2 Here’s why.
Managing Weight with Mindfulness
In our study on the seven overeating styles, the more research participants ate mindfully by practicing all seven antidotes to the seven overeating styles (the core of our Whole Person Integrative Eating program), the more they reduced their weight. This suggests that you eat less when you focus not only on what you are eating, but also on how, why, where, and with whom.1
Here are three other studies linking mindfulness meditation to improved digestion, managing eating disorders, and weight loss.
Improved digestion. Researcher Donald Morse, professor emeritus at Temple University in Philadelphia, discovered that that those who practiced mindfulness meditation before eating produced 22 percent more of the digestive enzyme alpha-amylase. This matters a lot, because alpha-amylase helps you digest and metabolize carbohydrates in carbohydrate-dense foods (such as potatoes, bread, and cereal), as well as the eight B vitamins.3
Less binge eating. When Jean Kristeller, PhD, founder of Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT), applied her mindfulness-eating program to obese women with Binge Eating Disorder (BED)—out-of-control eating twice a week or more for six months or longer—the women who continued to meditate regularly, even weeks after the program ended, lowered their average number of bingeing episodes from five times each week to 1.6. As encouraging, emotions that often sparked a bingeing episode, such as depression and anxiety, decreased.4
Increased weight loss. Dean Ornish, MD, put meditation on the research map by including it as part of a comprehensive program to reverse heart disease through lifestyle changes, without drugs or surgery. The components: stress management (meditation and yoga); a no-fat-added plant-based diet; exercise; and group support.
To find out which components, if any, contributed the most to reversing heart disease, Ornish and his research team put patients and their spouses on the program for three months. The results of the study revealed three groundbreaking insights into mindfulness and weight loss.
The key message in these studies is this: Bringing a meditative consciousness to meals—eating when you eat and not engaging in other tasks—means you’ll have better digestion, will eat less, and will be more likely to lose weight.
Cultivating Mindfulness Eating
Here, mindfulness eating tips that empower you to replace the overeating style of Task Snacking1 with mindfulness eating—paying attention intentionally—throughout the meal.
Mindfulness Meals: It’s a Lifetime Practice
Replacing the overeating style of Task Snacking with mindfulness eating is a lifetime practice; a way of eating (I call it a “dietary lifestyle”) you get better and better at each time you eat with awareness. When you take the time to contemplate food in such a way, even for a few moments, you’re practicing the Whole Person Integrative Eating antidote to the Task Snacking overeating style: Bring moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental awareness to each aspect of the meal. In this way, you’re taking another step away from task snacking and toward the Whole Person Integrative Eating dietary lifestyle that ups your odds of overcoming overeating and making weight loss last.