New research from Rice University indicates that mindless switching between digital devices is associated with increased susceptibility to food temptations and lack of self-control, which may result in weight gain.
“Increased exposure to phones, tablets and other portable devices has been one of the most significant changes to our environments in the past few decades, and this occurred during a period in which obesity rates also climbed in many places,” said Richard Lopez, a postdoctoral research fellow at Rice and the study’s lead author.
People who compulsively check their phones,
tend to be fatter than people who don’t
The research found that people who used their phone compulsively or inappropriately (such as wanting check their phone for messages while they were talking to someone else) as well as more passive behaviors (like media-related distractions that interfere with your work) found that they had a with higher body mass index (BMI) and greater percentage of body fat.
When media multitaskers/compulsive phone users were shown pictures of food, whilst they were in a fMRI brain scanner, researchers saw increased activity in the part of the brain dealing with food temptation.
Compulsive phone user’s brains react
differently to images of tempting foods
Overall, Lopez said these findings suggest there are links between media multitasking, risk for obesity, brain-based measures for self-control and exposure to real-world food cues.
“Such links are important to establish, given rising obesity rates and the prevalence of multimedia use in much of the modern world,” he said of the findings.
Lopez and his fellow researchers hope the study will raise awareness of the issue and promote future work on the topic.
The study was co-authored by Todd Heatherton of Dartmouth College and Dylan Wagner of Ohio State University.
“This study supports our research at MindfullyTrim” says Matt Walker-Wilson, lead researcher at MindfullyTrim™, who did not contribute to the study.
“Automatic behaviour – or automaticity – is often the quickest and easier, but not always the best for our health.
Being mindful about what we are doing – being mindful about our eating and also being mindful about other activities – can lead to better choices and a healthier lifestyle.”