It’s happened to the best of us.
You settle in with some snacks to watch your favorite TV show. Maybe it’s potato chips. Or perhaps something sweet like chocolates.
But before you realize what’s going on, you’ve reached the bottom of the bag. You ate the WHOLE thing when you only intended to have a few.
That’s when the guilt sets in. And you start beating yourself up for your “lack of willpower.”
Well, it’s time to drop the guilt. And ditch the accidental overeating at the same time. Because new research reveals, it’s NOT your fault.
Plus, the study provides a simple solution to stop it from happening again.
An overstimulated brain leads to overeating
Scientists from the University of Sussex have just relieved a bunch of us of a whole lot of guilt. Their recent research confirms that it’s not a weak will behind many cases of accidental overeating.
The study, published in the journal Appetite, found that WHAT you’re doing while you’re snacking is the real problem.
If that activity is visually demanding, or highly stimulating for your other senses, your brain’s signal to your belly that your full can get lost along the way.
The team ran the experiment with 120 volunteers. They gave the participants lower and higher calorie drinks. Then they had them perform a variety of tasks. Some required very little brainpower, and others took a lot of concentration.
And something interesting happened.
Slash snacking by 45% with less demanding tasks
Folks who were knee-deep in a demanding task gobbled down the same amount of potato chips regardless if they’d had a filling high-calorie drink or light low-cal beverage beforehand.
On the other hand, when it was a low brainpower task, the volunteers were able to adjust how much of the snack they ate, curbing overeating. When folks were in the low-demand group, they ate an average 45 percent FEWER potato chips after drinking the high-calorie beverage.
While it was surprising to see this big of an effect, it didn’t come entirely out of the blue. It actually builds on previous research. Earlier studies found that when our brains are being asked to fire on all cylinders… when our senses are fully engaged… they filter out some of the sensory information flying at us.
But this was the first time a similar connection was made between high sensory demand tasks and the involuntary blocking out of the feeling of fullness.
In other words, if you’re doing something engaging like watching your favorite TV show, your brain will dedicate most of its effort to that task. And there’s a good chance you’ll miss any cues that you’re satisfied and should stop eating.
Well, that is until you reach the bottom of the bag and suddenly realize you’ve gone too far.
Smart snacking can stop overeating
So if you often do something stimulating like watching TV, solving crossword puzzles, or playing video games while snacking, and find yourself accidentally overeating, it’s time to stop blaming yourself. Break the cycle instead.
The most obvious change you can make is to separate the snacking and the activity. It instantly solves the problem.
But many folks don’t want to give up the pleasure of combining their favorite activities with snacking. And the good news is you don’t have to.
You can dial back the stimulation factor when watching TV, for example, by skipping the thriller or action movie until AFTER you’re done with your nibbles. Try something less exciting, like a rerun or a travel show.
And stack the odds in your favor even more by measuring out a very modest portion of your snack and putting the rest away BEFORE you settle in. That way, overeating is out of the question from the start.