Q&A Is Multitasking When I Eat Bad? | TMOHP Episode 108

It’s another Q&A episode! In this episode I’m answering one of the MANY questions I get about multitasking when you eat and whether mindful eating is important.

“Why should I care about multitasking when I eat? I usually eat alone and if I’m not doing anything else it’s boring. Is multitasking when I eat really bad? Why should I stop?” Also - what is mindful eating anyway?

In this episode let’s talk about what’s realistic, what’s helpful, what’s do-able, and why you probably want to make some changes if you multitask when you eat.

In this episode:

  • The problem with multitasking when you eat - and why you probably don’t need or want to give it up completely
  • Why mindful eating is not an all-or-nothing proposition
  • How mindful eating helps you eat less
  • How to use mindful eating and less multitasking in a way that feels empowering instead of restrictive

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Episode Transcript

Hello everybody, welcome back to the podcast. It is another Q&A episode day. Today's episode is answering a question that I received from someone in the free Freedom From Emotional Eating and Overeating Facebook group. And if you're not a member, you want to go over to Facebook and just search for the Freedom From Emotional Eating and Overeating Facebook group. That is a private community that I have over on Facebook. And it is the place where I get the questions for these Q and A episodes. 

So today the question I got was why should I care about multitasking or not multitasking when I eat? I usually eat alone, and if I'm not doing anything else while I eat, it's boring. Is multitasking when I eat really bad? Why should I stop? 

The idea of not multitasking when we eat is one that pushes a lot of buttons for people. Okay? So, it's a great question, or a great series of questions that she asked, and I want to start by actually rephrasing the question, because I think the question that is more important or will be more helpful for us to talk about is the question, Is multitasking when I eat bad for me?

Or, I think even better to play with is the question, When is multitasking when I eat not helpful for me? When is it not helpful for me to multitask when I eat? This is an important question. All the advice out there about how to eat and what to eat, it can be overwhelming. It's also more than a bit irritating if it's something that you have been cycling through over the years and watching it change and you know, one thing becomes popular and then another thing fades to the background until it doesn't. 

In the midst of all of the advice out there, you have probably heard the phrase mindful eating. Mindful eating is learning to pay attention to the food that you eat, learning to be present with all your senses when you eat. Mindful eating is about paying attention to the experience, being attentive. Being attentive to the taste, the smell, the texture. Being fully present while you eat.

The concept of mindful eating it's well, it's a practice actually, and it's a practice of cultivating awareness. Awareness of your emotions. Awareness of your physical sensations. Awareness of your thoughts before and while you're eating.

When people talk about mindful eating, it can sound very Zen. Very spiritual, even, or spa like. Right? And for some people, it sounds profoundly irritating. And the concept of mindful eating, it can also seem unrealistic. Like, I don't have time for that. There's no way this would fit into my busy, complex life. You don't understand what I'm dealing with. Right? 

So mindful eating can elicit a lot of feelings, a lot of reactions internally, and a lot of mental eye rolling. And then if mindful eating is something that sounds appealing to you, it can really trigger your inner perfectionist and become another overwhelming item on your to do list that you blame yourself for not getting to because it just feels too big.

So this question of, is it really a problem to multitask when I eat? Is it really bad? Should I really be paying attention to this? Cause I really don't want to is an incredibly valid question. Life is busy and mindfully savoring every bite that we eat is not an option for most of us. Mindful eating a hundred percent of the time is probably not a useful concept for you.

Let me say this a different way. Not multitasking when you eat one hundred percent of the time is probably not a useful concept for you. That said, the idea of mindful eating, the practice of mindful eating, is something that you need to know about. And the question of when is multitasking when I eat not helpful to me? Is worth considering.

Because without the right amount of mindful eating in your life, peace with food and freedom from overeating are both impossible. Absolutely impossible. Let's talk about why that is. First of all, not multitasking when you eat is a huge mouthful, and it's kind of hard to say. So what I'm going to use instead is the term mindful eating, because mindful eating is not multitasking when you eat.

The first thing that is important to consider is that mindful eating helps you avoid being triggered to overeat. It helps you avoid the things in your life that lead to overeating. 

Mindfulness means paying attention and being present in the moment. And if you're not present in the moment, then you are absolutely vulnerable to reactive habits. You're more vulnerable to stress eating or emotional eating because you're less aware or not aware of the situations that are happening. You're not paying attention, you're multitasking, you're busy. You're not paying attention to the situations that tend to trigger overeating for you. 

In difficult moments, when you're in the midst of a bunch of things, if you're not paying attention, you are much more likely to react automatically, on autopilot, with pretty mindless choices. Because again, you're not aware. And when you're not aware, when you're in reaction mode, when you're reacting automatically, you’re not in the driver's seat. You're not empowered. 

If you aren't present, you cannot be intentional. You can't be proactive. And honestly, if you're not currently mindful in this moment, if I'm not present in this moment, then I can't make a decision. I'm not fully making a choice. And when it comes to changing your eating habits, you want to be in the driver's seat. You want to be in an empowered place where you can make a choice. Okay? 

That is the second thing that is so important. Mindful eating allows you to make a choice. Mindful eating empowers you to make a choice. The opposite of a choice is a reaction. If you're not fully present in the moment, then you're more prone to react. And when we react, we choose the old habits. 

If you're not fully present in the moment, then you're more prone to react in the old ways, rather than intentionally choosing the new habits that you are trying to build. The new choices, the non-overeating habits. You can't make a purposeful choice if you aren't paying attention. And if you're multitasking, you can't be paying attention. You're not fully present in the moment. 

So the act of considering what do I want to do here? Or what are my options? Or what are my choices? Or do I really want to eat in this situation? Is food what I really need? That requires mindfulness. In any moment, you cannot make the decision to choose a coping strategy to avoid stress eating, for instance, if you aren't present in the moment. If you're busy multitasking. 

In any moment, you can't make a decision to check in and see, am I really hungry right now? Or have I eaten enough to feel satisfied? Do I feel done? Or is this craving for food? Or am I really, do I really need something else? What am I feeling right now? Not multitasking when you are eating allows you to eat mindfully. And it also allows you to be mindful about the situation that you're going into. 

So maybe it's a situation where you feel tempted to eat. When you are mindful, when you are present, when you can ask these questions. Right? About, is this really what I need right now? Am I really hungry? Then that not multitasking, that mindfulness becomes a huge source of power.

When you're tuned in, when you're mindful, you've got the opportunity... You give yourself the opportunity to make choices and to make decisions about your eating. The ones that benefit you. The ones that line up with the goals that you have. The ones that line up with the new habits that you're trying to build. When you're not mindful, it is, it is exactly like being swept up in the current you're at the mercy of what's happening to you. You're reacting instead of setting your own course.

It is so much more like autopilot than it is about making proactive, intentional decisions. Earlier, I mentioned the idea of satisfaction. Right? Am I satisfied? Have I had enough? This is something that I think is really important to home in on when we talk about multitasking when you eat or not multitasking.

Mindful eating is a huge resource when it comes to being in a place where you get to fully enjoy your food. Mindful eating actually leads to more satisfaction. And it allows you to be much more aware of feelings of fullness or doneness with your eating. Right? When you learn to pay attention to your experiences of hunger, when you are in the moment and you're connected to your experiences of hunger and to your feelings and to your thoughts and to your eating. You are going to just naturally become more able to identify your hunger and your fullness. You're going to be tuning into those things. 

Mindful eaters are absolutely better at identifying their hunger and also identifying when their hunger is a sign that what they need is something else that isn't food. That it's not a physical hunger. It's a hunger for something else. People who practice mindful eating over time who don't multitask when they eat are able to recognize fullness earlier. It's been researched. 

Here's another thing that has been found in multiple research studies. When researchers compare people who are eating mindfully to a group who is not eating mindfully, the mindful eaters actually eat less and report feeling more satisfied. And I think that's because they are fully there. They're fully tasting the food, fully experiencing the food that they're eating. 

Think about overeating that you have done, and think about how much of the food. You eat in an episode of overeating that you never fully tasted, or never fully enjoyed. The last half of the thing, or the last six bites. Or the stuff that was on your plate that you just ate because it was there, and you didn't even pay attention to.

Here's something really important. It is impossible to savor without eating mindfully. If you are not present, you are cheating yourself out of satisfaction. You're cheating yourself out of taste. And you are cheating yourself out of the knowledge of when you've had enough. That feeling of satisfaction.

So my answer to the question about multitasking when you eat is that not multitasking when you eat is something that you absolutely want to experiment with. Experiment with it. Do you have to do it all the time? No. Would you want to? Probably not. I sure wouldn't. So how do you do that? How do you decide when to focus on not multitasking when you eat? When do you decide to focus on being more mindful when you eat? 

I think that the key to integrating mindful eating into your life is to first be realistic. And then take a look at where do you think it would benefit you the most? Take a look at your life because the answer is going to be different for everybody.

Take a look at your life, your schedule, your patterns of eating, the times when you tend to overeat. Where do you tend to eat mindlessly or on autopilot? Where do you tend to eat more than is comfortable for you? What are the situations that distract you from your goals with food or where you forget what you were planning to do earlier in the day?

What are the times, like I said, when you tend to overeat or end up feeling fuller than you thought you were while you were eating? Ever walk away from the table and think, Oh man, I didn't realize that I ate that much. What are the times or the circumstances when you tend to eat reflexively or reactively without thinking? Or it doesn't really feel like you made a choice to do it and afterwards you realize, Oh, I didn't even think about that and I went ahead and ate that thing.

Take a look at your own life. Take a look at your own patterns. And then pick one situation. Pick one time. Pick one meal and practice being more attentive and more mindful. Is multitasking when you eat bad? No. Can it distract you and lead to overeating? Absolutely. 

Should you experiment with putting down your phone or turning off your computer or walking away from your desk before you eat? I absolutely think it's worth finding out what would happen, what will happen, when you try it. 

I'll talk to you soon.

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Your Missing Peace is the psychologist-designed program that provides the tools, the support, the coaching, and the confidence to create freedom from emotional eating and overeating. Finally - emotional eating help done right! Your Missing Peace is specifically designed for smart, high-achieving women who are DONE with diets, who want a lasting solution, and who are ready to take their power back from food, from overeating, and the scale. 

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