Weight loss: Why you NEED to put your phone down at mealtimes

Staring at the TV or your phone can cause you to eat more, and eat faster. Here's why "mindful" healthy eating works

Healthy eating: Why you need to not be distracted during mealtimes
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Even though we're wise to the benefits and practices of how to meditate, practices like "mindful eating" still sound very new-agey, or even cringeworthy, to some. We usually like to do the opposite: scrolling through Instagram or Twitter, or watching our favourite streaming service while eating. 

Modern-day apps and content services are designed to be as attention-absorbing as possible. Netflix has reduced the amount of time it lingers on an episode's end-credits before auto-selecting the next one, in a bid to make you keep watching. Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and Facebook are all designed to feed you dopamine, the reward chemical in your brain stimulated by notifications, to get you hooked on their content. 

Distracted by our screens, we shovel whatever food or snack we've prepared into our mouths, not noticing until the plate – or occasionally, the big of chips or popcorn – is fully empty. According to research, this distraction frequently causes us to overeat. 

A report by Harvard University Medical School said: "The average American spends two-and-a-half hours a day eating, but more than half the time, we're doing something else, too. Because we're working, driving, reading, watching television, or fiddling with an electronic device, we're not fully aware of what we're eating. 

"And this mindless eating—a lack of awareness of the food we're consuming—may be contributing to the national obesity epidemic and other health issues."

Healthy eating: Why you need to not be distracted during mealtimes

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is a method of eating, whether just snacking or during a whole meal, which demands you pay full attention to what you're eating without distractions. Being completely absorbed in your food is said to fill you up faster, extending mealtimes and reducing the likelihood of overeating.

One study, published in the journal Diabetes Spectrum, said: "It is important to restate that the main benefit of mindful eating is not weight loss. However, it is highly likely that people who adopt mindful eating as a regular practice will lose excess weight and keep it off."

According to the Harvard report above, mindful eating starts with shopping, paying attention to filling up your cart in the produce isle while avoiding the pre-packaged fatty foods we often grab on autopilot, and preparation, using healthy cooking methods such as the best grill and best air fryers to avoid consuming excess fat. 

We're also advised to "bring all your senses to the meal", paying attention to the smell, colour and taste of the food, without watching TV or scrolling through your phone. Chew your food thoroughly and eat slowly to get the full benefits, allowing your stomach time to feel full.

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.