Healthy Eating Tips

Why a Dietitian Wants You To Step Away From the Computer for Real, Dedicated Lunch Breaks

Kells McPhillips

Kells McPhillipsAugust 17, 2020

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For me, stepping away from my computer at lunchtime feels as gratifying as, say, being the first woman to swim the English Channel or inventing microwave popcorn. In a culture where much of your value gets placed on how long you spend “on the grind,” taking 20 minutes to scarf down a sandwich or (gasp!) actually cook yourself a hot lunch in the middle of the day feels like a special occasion. But a new study sheds light on why it’s so important to ditch your desktop during your midday meal whenever possible.

According to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Suffix, continuing to answer emails (or doing anything mentally stimulating, like watching TV or playing video games) while you’re mid-salad keeps your body from registering how full it really is. Looking at 120 participants, scientists found that those engaged with the television while munching on chips tended to consume more. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating when you’re hungry, the study does suggest that TV and computers tend to separate you from listening to the needs of your body.

“Eating while doing something else—whether it’s working, watching television or using a smartphone—detracts from our ability to recognize internal cues for hunger and fullness which can lead to overeating and less overall satisfaction from meals,” says Malina Malkani, RDN, creator of Solve Picky Eating. That means that you may put your plate in the sink and still and not feel 100 percent happy with whatever delicious, healthy meal you prepped for yourself.

Here’s what you need to know about intuitive eating:

To really dig into your body’s cues while you’re munching, Malkani recommends thinking of your satiety based on the hunger scale. “When you are getting ready to eat a meal or snack, ask yourself, ‘Where am I on the hunger and fullness scale?’ Ideally, you’ll be between a 3 and a 4,” Alissa Rumsey, RD, a certified intuitive eating counselor, wrote on her blog. “Eat until you get to a 6 or 7, then stop.” The scale looks like this:

  1. Famished, faint, and irritable
  2. Very hungry and need food fast
  3. Hungry and ready to eat
  4. Beginning to feel signs of hunger
  5. Physically full
  6. Satisfied and no longer hungry
  7. Slightly uncomfortable feeling of fullness

Here’s the reality, though: Sometimes there are days when you feel like you just have to eat over your keyboard to get through your to-do list. And Malkani has a plan for you to follow if that’s the case. “If leaving the desk is an impossibility during your workday, try scheduling a short desk break on your calendar and reserving it for lunch,” she says. “Staying mindful during meals is easier and more impactful when you take as much time as you can spare—even if it’s only 5 minutes—to shut down electronics like computers and phones during meals and focus 100 percent of your attention on the textures, flavors, and sensations of eating.”

I guarantee you that even if you’re a CEO or a brain surgeon, you can carve out five to enjoy a nice meal with yourself. Even if it’s two minutes, or one minute, or 30 seconds—shut your laptop and let the flavors in your go-to lunch bowl come alive in your mouth.

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