Technology might make life easier, but it can play havoc with your weight. Find out if your tech-savvy lifestyle is risking your waistline.
We can’t live without technology these days. But have you ever thought about how it might be impacting your weight? When experts at a US-based think tank crunched the numbers, they found that whenever a country invests an extra 10 per cent in information communications technology, the rate of obesity in that country climbs by almost 1.5 per cent of the total population. In Australia, this equals roughly 350,000new cases of obesity. If you’re keen to limit the damage technology has on your weight, avoid these five common tech traps.
Tech trap #1
Combining meal time with screen time
By eating dinner in front of the TV or having lunch at your computer, you’ll often consume more food than you need. One explanation is that screen time is distracting. It blurs your ‘food memory’— and new research shows that when you can’t recall how much you ate during a meal, you’ll consume 25 per cent more food than usual at the next one.
Avoid it by
Chewing your food more
The best solution is committing to screen-free meals, but when you can’t, chew every bite really thoroughly. People who increase their chews-per-bite from 15 to 40 eat 12 per cent less of the food on their plate. As well as giving your body more time to feel full, it helps regulate appetite hormones.
44% of Australians always eat lunch at their desks on workdays
Tech trap #2
Ordering restaurant meals without leaving the house
The recent surge of meal delivery services like Uber Eats makes it easy to order in without resorting to fast food, so you can eat your favourite restaurant meal without leaving the house. The problem? Home cooking is the main ingredient in a healthier diet, with restaurant meals often just as high in kilojoules as fast food — and sometimes higher.
Avoid it by
Choosing a menu that displays nutritional info about each dish
When you have access to nutritional information, your subconscious nudges you to make a healthier choice. Not possible? Drink two glasses of water while waiting for your food. It creates a feeling of fullness that translates into you eating roughly 380 fewer kilojoules per meal.
Tech trap #3
Paying for groceries with the wave of a card
It makes life simple, but researchers at the University of Chicago discovered that when you pay by card, you end up with more unhealthy, discretionary foods in your trolley. It seems that simply not having to physically part with cold hard cash brings out the impulsive purchaser in us.
Avoid it by
Writing a meal plan and shopping with a list
Australian research confirms doing both will help you avoid the temptations of unhealthy food purchases and buy only what you’d planned to.
Tech trap #4
Looking at your phone before you hit the sack
When you’re exposed to the blue-tinged light of your phone, laptop and TV in the hour or two before bedtime, it disrupts your sleep patterns. This has a knock-on effect on your weight. Poor sleep can lead to weight gain because it increases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, while also lowering your levels of leptin, the hormone that suppresses your appetite.
Avoid it by
Downloading F.lux (justgetflux.com)
It’s an app that automatically adjusts your screen’s colour to suit the time of day in order to support your body clock’s rhythm — so at night, blue light turns reddish-orange.
Another option is to make the two hours before bedtime a tech-free zone.
Tec trap #5
Binge-watching your favourite series
Results of a recent US study prove people who binge-watch up to six consecutive hours of media in one sitting are more likely to eat poorly, exercise less and to be overweight. Binge-watching prompts us to eat unhealthy foods to excess, as well as stealing time from healthier pursuits.
Avoid it by
Limiting how many episodes you watch at once
Research published last year says you’ll enjoy your favourite series more when you take a break between episodes.
Did you know?
Australia comes eighth globally for binge-racing through entire TV series in one day
How to digitally detox
Try these four ways to tame your tech habit without really trying.
Turn your devices to silent. Hearing that ‘ding’ notification causes the same amount of mental distraction as actually using your phone or tablet.
Keep gadgets out of sight when socialising. Not only does this deliver a zero-tech opportunity, you’ll get more out of your socialising too. Research shows just the presence of a smartphone lowers the quality of traditional-style conversations.
Move your chargers out of your bedroom. And make it a habit to plug in devices overnight. That takes away the temptation to use them before or after you’ve switched the lights off, something 42 per cent of Australians do.
And never (ever!) check your phone while you’re moving. You’ll be much safer too. Researchers from Queensland have confirmed that texting while walking significantly increases your accident and injury risk.
While some technology contributes to weight gain, other types can help you shift the scales in the opposite direction. Try using …
Apps that scan food labels
Using nutrition information panels to decide which groceries to buy is linked to people weighing four kilograms less than those who do not. But just 9 per cent of people who say they always check the kilojoule content of a product, actually do.
Download FoodSwitch (foodswitch.com.au), an app that features a barcode scanner which makes it simple to compare products based on their nutritional make-up.
Meal-kit delivery services
Having a box full of recipes and ingredients delivered to your place can make cooking from scratch a lot easier if you are time poor. Researchers have identified time poverty as a key barrier to preparing the home-cooked meals that promote a healthier diet.
Try HelloFresh or Marley Spoon for family-friendly meal kits or Eat Fit Food or Dietlicious for dietitian-designed meals delivered to your door, ready for you to heat and eat.
Online grocery shopping
It’s scientifically proven to reduce how much food ends up in your fridge, as well as how many high-fat foods you have access to, as it’s easier to resist temptation when you are shopping in an ‘online supermarket’.
Your phone’s camera
Take a picture of your food before you eat it. When people were asked to do that as part of a US study, they started making healthier choices because the photos made them feel more accountable and mindful about the sort of foods they were eating.
Apps that track your steps
Research shows tracker apps are just as accurate for tracking activity as wearable devices. People who track their steps take more than 780 extra steps per day and also engage in significantly more physical activity.
Check out ActivityTracker (activitytrackerapp.com) and Pacer (mypacer.com).