Do People Who Eat At Their Desk Or On-The-Go Really Tend To Be Fatter?


Cover image via Koji Sasahara/AP

While it may be a convenient way to fit lunch into a hectic work schedule, a new research published in the Journal of Health Psychology claims that eating at your desk or while walking around could lead to weight gain and obesity in people who are dieting.

However, as with much media science reporting, it's not that simple!

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Surrey, UK, found that if you're focusing on something other than your food - by, for instance, checking email or updating Facebook - your body will effectively "forget" you've eaten, and thus be hungry later in the day, triggering more overeating. Here are the briefs about the study:

Researchers from the University of Surrey got 60 women who were either dieting or not to eat a cereal bar.

The first group munched while watching Friends, the second while walking around a corridor, the third during a chat with a friend.

The women who were on a diet ate more snacks, including five times as much chocolate as others, after if they had chomped down the cereal bar while on their feet.

According to Professor Jane Ogden, the lead author of the study:

"Eating on the go may make dieters overeat later on in the day. This may be because walking is a powerful form of distraction which disrupts our ability to process the impact eating has on our hunger. 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.

Even though walking had the most impact, any form of distraction, including eating at our desks can lead to weight gain. 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 recognise the food that has just been consumed."

Distracted eating.

Image via Tips For Dieting

While previous research has suggested that distraction (eating while watching TV, walking around, talking to friends, etc.) can have a significant impact on food intake, increasing the risk of subsequent overeating, and Professor Jane puts forth a reasonable theory, however, the latest study's findings are far from conclusive

The study only looked at female dieters at a single point in time. And while snacking is often linked with weight gain, it’s not clear extra chocolate would cancel out any weight loss from dieting at the same time.

So the research would need repeating over time with men and women on measurable, comparable diets for anything really concrete to be said on the matter. It’s still worth keeping an eye on how much you eat at your desk!

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