It’s something that most of us do without thinking, but if you eat dinner in front of the TV, you may unknowingly be eating beyond the point that you’re full.
Researchers from the University of Sussex have revealed that when your senses are taken up by an engaging task, such as watching TV, you’re less likely to be able to adjust how much extra food or drink your consume.
In their study, the team tested 120 participants, giving them either a low-calorie or high-calorie drink alongside either a low-attention task or one that required lots of attention.
Following the task, the participants were offered snacks.
The team found that participants who completed the high-attention task ate roughly the same amount of follow-up snacks, regardless of whether or not they were initially given a high or low calorie drink.
However, the people who completed the low-attention task could adjust how much of the additional snack they ate.
Those who had consumed the high-calorie drink ate 45% fewer snacks than those who had had the lower energy drink.
Professor Martin Yeomans from the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex, said: "Our study suggests that if you're eating or drinking while your attention is distracted by a highly engaging task, you're less likely to be able to tell how full you feel.
“You're more likely to keep snacking than if you'd been eating while doing something less engaging. This is important for anyone wanting to stay a healthy weight: if you're a habitual TV-watching snacker - watching, say, an engaging thriller or mystery, or a film with a lot of audio or visual effects - you're not likely to notice when you feel full. Video-gamers and crossword solvers should also take note!
"We already knew that feeling full could be affected by the texture and appearance of food, as well as pre-existing expectations about how full we think a type of food should make us feel. Now we also know that feeling full depends on how much sensory information our brains are processing at the time."