Gadgets, Distraction and Mindful Eating
Recently, when I entered a shopping mall, out of the first ten people I saw six were talking with, looking at or reading a handheld electronic device. Out of a group of young people sitting around a table inside, most were repeatedly looking at an electronic device while eating. More or less the same scene is being repeated in restaurants and even in homes.
What one sees as behavior of another individual is an action or communication by that person. However, what is expressed is the result of a person’s decision-making based on his/her cognition, understanding and analysis of the situation, whether it relates to economics, relationships, health or eating.
We assume that humans behave in a rational way when it comes to their eating behavior, because it impacts their wellbeing. However, rationality depends on one’s beliefs and reasons for action, “selfish” in this case. This, in turn, depends on how much direct and indirect information and opportunities to execute a desirable action is available to that individual.
However, even those who should know better may be forced into a particular behavior by involuntary lack of self-control, or the prevailing social customs in a given situation. For example when one is dealing with a stressful situation. Or, it could be an event, such as a celebration, when one is expected to eat. Or, one could be placed in circumstances where a lot of effort to prepare and serve a special dish was expended by the host and, again, one feels obligated to partake.
The eating behavior starts within hours after birth and has to be followed lifelong, multiple times daily. This means that decisions by caregivers form the basis for the subsequent development and implementation of this act, especially during the early period of life. During toddler years, one could be guided by intuition based on nutrient content and availability of foods. However, encouragement from caregivers, psychological pressure due to time constraints and inability to have access to food when one feels the sensation of hunger all could modify subsequent establishment of one’s eating behavior.
Over time, each eating episode becomes a conditioned response dictated by what is happening at the moment rather than its overall effect on the health and wellbeing. I suggest that the increasing incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes in developed countries, developing countries as well as in poor countries is a testament to the above.
Let me explain. In affluent countries, affordability and easy availability of foods rich in protein, fat, salt and added sugar prompt indulgence due to any reason or, for no specific reason. In developing countries, the newly rich find themselves with disposable cash with the main avenue of having a good time together with friends being eating and drinking. Limitation of leisure time due to prolonged working hours and lack of suitable places, either outdoor or indoor, for workouts promotes this way of life. If you are poor and have experienced starvation, you are inclined to eat whatever is available, whether the items have desired nutritional qualities, as long as it provides bulk to satisfy hunger.
However, I suggest that there is an additional significant underlying reason for the increasing incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes in almost every country in the world, the pervasive influence of electronic gadgets. Constant attention to these prevents one from eating mindfully. For example, the sound of the arrival of signal in anyone’s gadget, each “ping”, prompts everyone automatically to glance at his/her device as if in a synchronized choreographed ballet movement.
In addition to the influence of distraction during a meal, what one eats commonly in modern day food intake situations contains a significant amount of grains or grain-flour products. Combined, chances are that most people eat more of the wrong types of food than necessary for optimal health.
Eating should be considered a private pleasure. I can’t emphasize the importance of disengaging oneself from the influence of one’s electronic gadget to enjoy the meal you are eating, if you are to gain control of your weight and avoid obesity and type 2 diabetes.
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