• Bari Stricoff, MSc, RDN

Are You A 'Desk Eater"?

In today’s society, we often equate being busy with being successful. I hear so many of my clients say they “skip their lunch break to get ahead on their work" – which in return, makes them feel more accomplished! But what if I told you that eating your lunch at your desk, while simultaneously trying to “get ahead” on work, could backfire and result in decreased productivity and even weight gain! Would you still scarf down that sandwich and answer emails at the same time?

You’re not alone if you are a “desk eater”. In fact, 62% of professional’s report eating at their desk. While desk eaters may not be “working”, they after often skimming articles, reading emails, texting, scrolling through social media, or any other task that requires split concentration with eating. A 2013 study investigated the impact of distraction on eating behaviours and quantity of food consumed. The results showed that those who were distracted consumed more food than those who were free of distraction. Furthermore, the study suggests that the more cognition your distraction requires, the more likely you are to overeat and ignore fullness cues. Thus –trying to work on that spread sheet with one hand, and eat your sandwich with the other, may result in overeating.

Other studies have supported the idea that distractions during meal times increase quantity consumed, but also:

· Increases speed of eating

· Leads to lack of memory regarding eating (maybe more likely to have a ‘second lunch’)

· Increased snack consumption

· Decreased satiation reports (lower levels of feeling full)

So, stepping away from your desk and eating your lunch with minimal distractions can help fight that sneaky weight gain! Focusing on your meal, instead of the computer, can ensure you pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues, enjoy your meal, eat at a more reasonable pace and make healthier decisions!

But besides the quantity of food consumed, research also illustrates that leaving your work station during lunch and “taking a break” will help you relax, clear your mind, and increase productivity! Taking a step back from your work will enable you to return with a fresh pair of eyes and increased motivation. Even just walking away from your desk and moving your body has been shown to increase productivity levels!

While I’m not saying that if you eat at your desk, you’re going to gain tons of weight and your work performance will always suffer – BUT – I am saying there is evidence to show continual and prolonged lunch breaks spent in front of the computer may not be beneficial for your work load and your waist line! I encourage you to step away from the desk, pay attention and focus on your meal, move your body, and even socialize! We are all so determined to get ahead in life that we don’t realize how our actions can send us in the opposite direction!

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