Year In Dieting: Distraction, Noise Cause Overeating Research about weight loss this year hasn't focused on fad diets like Atkins or South Beach. Instead, it's been about how our environment and state of mind affect how we eat.

Year In Dieting: Distraction, Noise Cause Overeating

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NPR's Allison Aubrey has more.

ALLISON AUBREY: So what did you have for breakfast here this morning?

M: Coffee and a scone.

AUBREY: How about you?

M: Coffee and a croissant.

AUBREY: Oh, that's a good breakfast.

M: Yeah.


AUBREY: What is it, actually?

M: It's like bacon, egg and cheese in like, a bread roll.

AUBREY: With a few layers of sausage thrown in, too.

M: Yeah, it's probably going to cut a couple years off my life. But I mean, it's really good, so I'm enjoying myself right now. You should get one, actually.

AUBREY: Beegah says he usually does not eat this way. At home, he wouldn't think of loading up on triple portions of fatty foods for breakfast. But traveling, being on the go - it turns out Beegah's brain is processing food differently than if he were having a quiet meal in his own kitchen. The sensory overload can really throw off judgment, or inure us to the sensation of feeling full. Scientists are just beginning to understand how this disruption works.

LUDDEN: I think there are lots of factors that come together to ultimately influence how much we eat.

AUBREY: Higgs recently measured the differences between people who ate their lunch mindfully - paying attention to each bite of food - compared to people who watched TV or worked on their computers while eating.

LUDDEN: When people are distracted from their lunch, we find that given the opportunity later in the day to consume cookies, they actually eat more cookies than if they weren't distracted when they ate their lunch.

AUBREY: In a recent study from the University of Manchester and Unilever, researcher Andy Woods experimented with varying levels of background noise in a dining room. He found as it gets louder, people lose their ability to perceive saltiness and sweetness. And he says there is one more thing...

M: We also, though, found an intriguing link between food liking and background noise preference - such that when the person had quite liked the background noise, they would report that the food was more liked.

AUBREY: But inevitably, we have to step back out into the world again, where temptation is everywhere.


M: I think there's so much emphasis on food all the time.

AUBREY: As scone and coffee lover Caree Scott says, look no further than magazines displayed at the grocery store checkout. They're all the same.

M: On every issue, there's a thing that says lose 20 pounds, you know, by spring, and then right underneath there, there's a picture of a cake.

AUBREY: Scott says the contradiction is almost laughable.

M: You can't have both. You can't lose weight and also have the cake.

AUBREY: Allison Aubrey, NPR News.

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