The value of distraction for weight loss
Using distracting activity to tolerate mild hunger
Elsewhere in my blog articles I’ve outlined the value of learning to tune in to hunger and fullness signals from the gut to guide when to eat and when to stop eating. If you have tended to eat whether hungry or not, then tolerating mild hunger will be a new challenge.
Because of the way the digestive system works, hunger comes and goes. The longer it is since your last meal, the stronger and more frequent the hunger signals get. But to begin with they are mild and spaced apart.
Whenever you think of eating, first consult your gut and rate how hungry you are on the Appetite Pendulum. If you are -3 (definitely hungry) it is time to eat. If not, do something else that doesn’t involve food. You may already be busy, in which case just focus on the task in hand. If you aren’t busy then occupy yourself with any activity which will absorb your attention for 10 minutes or so.
When you do this, your body will use up the energy available either from the last meal or, if that has already gone, some stored fat. This is exactly what you want to happen for weight loss. In addition, when your body does this, it switches off the hunger signal and you can get on with your day.
Using distracting activity to avoid eating when you’re not hungry
The other time that distraction is really helpful is relaxing time when you have a habit of eating even though you’re not hungry. For many people this is in the evening maybe when watching TV. After your evening meal, have things already planned that you will do at this risky time for unnecessary eating.
Getting absorbed in a task moves attention away from food which is helpful in itself. In addition, approximately half an hour after the end of a meal, you tend to feel fuller than at the point of stopping the meal, so the distraction helps you to get to a point where it is easier not to think about food.
What type of activity is helpful for weight loss?
For an activity to be helpful for weight loss, it needs to be absorbing and preferably needs to involve using both your hands and your mind. It can be any sort of hobby or interest or household chore or DIY task. People I’ve worked with have used a wide range of activities including admin tasks, surfing the internet, making phone calls, tidying cupboards, doing jigsaws, crosswords or other puzzles, playing games, playing a musical instrument, yoga, meditation, reading, writing and craft activities. The best activities are things you enjoy and/ or give you a sense of achievement.
Physical activity has long been recognised as a helpful part of losing weight. What gets very little press is the value of these other activities which may not involve physical exertion.
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