Dieters who eat while performing other activities such as walking or watching television may increase their food intake later in the day which could lead to weight gain and obesity, says a new study.
"Eating on the go may make dieters overeat later on in the day," said lead study author Jane Ogden, professor at University of Surrey in England.
The study also showed that eating while walking around triggered more overeating compared to eating during other forms of distraction such as watching TV or having a conversation with a friend.
"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," Ogden noted.
The team examined 60 women who were either dieters or non-dieters and gave them all a cereal bar to eat under three different conditions.
The first group was asked to watch a five-minute clip of the sitcom 'Friends' while eating.
The second group was asked to walk around the corridor while consuming the cereal bar, and the third group was simply asked to sit opposite a friend and have a conversation.
After the experiment, participants completed a taste test involving four different bowls of snacks, including chocolate, carrot sticks, grapes and crisps.
The results showed that dieters ate more snacks at the taste test if they had eaten the initial cereal bar while walking around and specifically they ate five times more chocolate.
"Even though walking had the most impact, any form of distraction can lead to weight gain," Ogden noted.
"When we do not fully concentrate on our meals and the process of taking in food, we fall into a trap of mindless eating where we do not track or recognise the food that has just been consumed," Ogden pointed out.
The study was published in the Journal of Health Psychology.