Quick: What did you have for lunch yesterday? Don’t remember? What about for dinner? Breakfast…today?
Critics have long pointed to fast food as one of the prime culprits behind America’s seemingly intractable battle of the bulge, yet could it be that what you might call our “fast-food culture” is also to blame?
You know what I’m talking about: the drive-through breakfast consumed in rush-hour traffic; the lunchtime burger scarfed down while catching up on your email; take-out on the coffee table for dinner, sacked out in front of the TV.
For more than a decade, researchers have been steadily accumulating evidence that suggests we eat less, well, when we actually pay attention to what we’re eating. Now there’s new evidence that we might also eat less when we actually remember what we ate earlier.
In research recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers combed through two dozen previous studies and found that not only did people eat less when they weren’t, say, fiddling with their smartphones while chowing down, but they also ate less later, too, reports the Los Angeles Times.
In short, if you don’t remember what you had for lunch, you’re more likely to eat more at dinner, or resort to a crazy/desperate mid-afternoon dash to the vending machine. Which would seem to support the approach of slowing down, of eating better foods, as not only a means of enjoying meals more, but as an effective way to diet, in a sense. And we can’t help but wonder how this research could change the way childhood obesity is treated. Could making school lunches, for example, more memorable help curb the overweight issues of the underaged?
So, yes, it’s a good bet that if you’re trying to lose weight, power down the computer and turn off the TV while you eat (and not just to avoid all those dinnertime commercials for stuffed-crust pizza and sizzling monster burgers). But what, exactly, you should remember about your meal to curb the appetite of future-you is still debatable. While it doesn’t appear you have to go all Proust and write, like, a gazillion words inspired by one stinkin’ cookie, there seems to be a range of “food memories” that can play a role.
As the researchers wrote, according to the Los Angeles Times: “it is not clear what aspects of memory are important…Vividness of memory imagery, memory for food eaten, and memory of calories consumed were all associated with changes to food intake.”
I’m conjuring the turkey melt I had for lunch right now…