My Portion: The “Think” Before You Eat Challenge

by Jenn (eating bender) on September 5, 2008

This week’s My Portion is going to be a little different from the others. Why? Because in this week’s post, I am challenging all of you to join me in a little experiment!

This morning I came across this article from entitled “Food for thought: Thinking makes us pig out.” The article discusses a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in which “researchers split 14 university student volunteers into three groups for a 45-minute session of either relaxing in a sitting position, reading and summarizing a text, or completing a series of memory, attention, and vigilance tests on the computer.”

The student volunteers who were involved with the “thinking” group burned only three more calories than those students in the “relaxed” group.

After the experiment was over, both groups were allowed to eat as much as they wanted. According to the article, students who had worked on the computer ate 253 more calories than those in the resting group, and those who had read and summarized text consumed 203 more calories than the resting group.

The article goes on to discuss specific scientific reasoning behind these results.

Bottom line: Thinking tasks make us hungrier.

And since we’re more likely to be sitting down or inactive while completing said thinking tasks, we aren’t burning any extra calories to make up for this extra hunger.

Whether you’re studying for an exam or working on a project on the job, we all engage in a number of intellectual tasks every day. My question for you, then, is do these tasks make you extra hungry?

Personally – and I’ve mentioned this before – I know I tend to feel hungrier when I am sitting around doing nothing and less hungry when I am up and active all day long. But what I don’t know is whether or not this degree of hunger has to do with the level of thinking going into these tasks or the level of actual physical activity.

So here’s where the challenge comes in!!

The “Think” Before You Eat Challenge

What: A challenge that forces me – and you, if you’re interested! – to take a look at the activity – physical, mental and resting – that I am engaged in before each meal or snack and to judge whether I’m hungrier after a physical, mental or resting task.

Why: To see how my results compare to the scientific study, get a hold on whether my hunger is real hunger or “thinking” hunger šŸ˜‰ and determine whether there is actually a difference between the two.

How: For one week, I will take an extra moment before eating each meal or snack to jot down what I was doing in the hours leading up to said meal or snack – whether it was a physical activity, mental activity or a resting state – and what my hunger level is on a scale of 1 to 10 – 1 being ravenous and 10 being extremely full. I will also gauge my hunger level once more roughly 1/2 hour after I finish the meal or snack to see whether or not the type of activity I was doing has an impact on how the meal or snack keeps me full.

I will post the results at the beginning of next week’s My Portion post. Anyone else who wants to join in on this challenge – please do!

Let me know your thoughts on this issue in the comment section, and if you have any suggestions, add those in there as well :mrgreen: I’m pretty pumped about this one because although I feel that I have a general grasp on what the results might be, I think there is definitely room for some surprises!

TGIF, everyone! Enjoy the weekend :)

1 HangryPants September 5, 2008 at 5:28 am

This is interesting. Like you, I usually feel “hungrier” when doing nothing and barely think about food when I’m busy. I am sure it is completely psychological and I am just bored, so that means eat. I hope I can participate in this challenge this week because I would really like to work on recognizing true hunger within myself. Thanks.


Heather ~ Good luck with the challenge if you decide to try it!

2 Erica September 5, 2008 at 5:50 am

Great idea. I heard about this on the news last night! I can’t wait to ese your results!

Erica ~ Thanks!

3 VeggieGirl September 5, 2008 at 7:02 am

This sounds quite fun and intriguing!!

VeggieGirl ~ Thank you!

4 Fit Bottomed Girls September 5, 2008 at 7:06 am

This will be fun to follow…I for one and am a huge sugar-free gum chewer when I’m feeling really snacky, but I know I’ve only been sitting at my desk all day. :)

Fit Bottomed Girls ~ I love sugar-free gum! I could go through a pack a day!

5 Megan September 5, 2008 at 7:10 am

I love this challenge. I am in. Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Megan ~ Yay! Good luck!

6 Erin September 5, 2008 at 7:31 am

I love your scientific mindset! Way to test this hypothesis on your own sista!

Erin ~ Thanks, chica!

7 ChocolateCoveredVegan September 5, 2008 at 7:45 am

Sounds like a fun little experiment :o)

CCV ~ Yes, it’s interesting to say the least!

8 Aimee September 5, 2008 at 7:46 am

I agree with this…during law school I would have exams for each course that lasted up to 3 hours. I always had to take a snack to eat half way, because I would start to feel hungry. Same with when I was studying for finals, I always ate a lot…not to mention the bar exam!!

Aimee ~ Very interesting – thanks!

9 Melissa S. September 5, 2008 at 8:18 am

This sounds very interesting…I think I’m going to try it with you…

now I need to run off and find a notepad to carry around with me for this experiment…:D

Melissa S. ~ Haha, nice! :)

10 Nicole September 5, 2008 at 8:32 am

This is very interesting!

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have classes for 10 hours and I am usually working nonstop, and I find that I am less hungry during those times!

Nicole ~
It’s good to know there’s some proof to this – thanks!

11 gina (fitnessista) September 5, 2008 at 8:33 am

this is SO TRUE! whenever i’m studying and sitting around, it seems like i can’t stop snacking (i’m not sure if the intense reading actually makes me hungry or if i just firgure that eating is way more fun than studying). when i’m busy, i’m often rarely as hungry and actually have to remind myself that it’s time to eat.
i’m way excited to see the results of this experiment and how they correspond with the study! great idea šŸ˜€
have a wonderful friday!!

gina (fitnessista) ~ Yay, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

12 Rose September 5, 2008 at 8:57 am

Another great “My Portion!” Pretty much covers everything I’ve been wondering about my sedentary adult lifestyle (booo!). I certainly agree that I am less hungry when active and get hungry more often (and at the same times each day – hum, mind trick?) when I’m sitting all day.

Rose ~
Thanks for sharing! I wish sedentary adult lifestyles weren’t so commonplace and that we could all have active jobs!

13 Jessica September 5, 2008 at 9:14 am

Sounds really interesting! I think I’ll have my husband and I give this a try šŸ˜€

Jessica ~ Awesome, let me know how it turns out!

14 Christie I September 5, 2008 at 10:40 am

Sounds interesting! I have found that when I am super busy at work, hunger isn’t really a top priority to me the way it is when I am bored. When I am bored and I feel hunger, its like, OK lets eat for something to do!

Christie I ~
Very true, thanks for sharing!

15 misswhiteskirt September 5, 2008 at 11:38 am

this is interesting and it totally reminded me of when I took my SATs, ACTs, and 2 AP exams last year. each time I would get STARVING. after my stomach rumbling soo embarrassingly loudly during the last hour of the SATs I knew I had to seriously stock up on snacks for big exams.

man I wish mental energy burned a zillion calories! then we’d all study more šŸ˜‰

Also I think a lot of it may be nervous energy – you want to make sure you remember stuff/write the right thing when you’re doing mental work. This is really relative to each person, but I really do think I burn extra energy when I am nervous/excited/emotionally high in some way (which is a lot, lol)

I’ll be paying more attention to my mentally active/physically active days and how my hunger is affected. great post :)

misswhiteskirt ~ Yeah, it sure would be nice if mental energy meant calories burned šŸ˜‰

16 caitlin (see bride run) September 5, 2008 at 12:07 pm

very interesting! im excited to read the results!

caitlin (see bride run) ~ Thanks!

17 Kristie September 5, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Now that you mention it and I actually think about it, this is actually very true! I definitely have much less of an appetite on the days where I am constantly on the go, sometimes to the point where I could even get away with skipping a meal and hardly notice it in terms of hunger. Whereas on the days where I am sitting around at home (like the past few days…), I always end up eating/snacking way more often, and the idea of skipping a meal is completely UNfathomable.

I’ll have to try paying attention to this for the next few days!

Kristie ~ I am in total agreement with you – thanks for sharing!

18 Mark Salinas September 5, 2008 at 1:12 pm

Very fun…I like it! And I agree! Thanks as always!

Mark Salinas ~ Nice, thanks!

19 Tina September 5, 2008 at 3:30 pm

Interesting! I’ll definitely have to try to pay attention to my thinking and eating in the next few days.

Tina ~ Definitely! Let me know what you find :)

20 wholefoodswholeme September 5, 2008 at 3:31 pm

i agree with everyone else – this really does hit home. today was a good example for me that his really is true, funnily enough! i’m excited to see what you get from this challenge, because as you say, even though we all think we know the answer or result, there is always something that springs up on us without expecting!!

wholefoodswholeme ~
Yes, I’m hoping for some surprises!

21 Heather September 5, 2008 at 4:18 pm

That’s interesting! I’m definitely starving after sitting in class all day… but maybe that’s because all we talk about is food :) It’ll be interesting to see the results of this challenge!

Heather ~ Haha, talking about food always makes me hungry!

22 Heather September 5, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Oh, and eat some mellowcreme pumpkins for me… mine have all mysteriously disappeared :(

Heather ~ I did!!!

23 ttfn300 September 5, 2008 at 7:09 pm

I, too, await to see what happens :) I find if my mind is otherwise occupied i don’t think about food until i’m hungry. when i’m bored or doing something i’m not interested in, straight to food!!

ttfn300 ~ Exactly – couldn’t have said it better myself :)

24 monsappetit September 5, 2008 at 8:21 pm

That’s such an interesting article! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. I’ll def have to be more mindful of my thinking and eating habits!

monsappetit ~
Absolutely! Glad you enjoyed it :)

25 letsthink782 September 5, 2008 at 9:21 pm

What a neat idea!

Forgive me if you have posted this information on your blog already, but what camera do you use? I am jealous of your crystal-clear photos!

letsthink782 ~ Actually, no one has ever asked! I have a Casio Exilim EX-S500 – here’s a link to it on Amazon. Mine’s white, and I love it!!

26 blueberryhil September 5, 2008 at 11:48 pm

I have noticed this before and I am ABSOLUTELY hungrier after thinking and studying hard for extended periods of time…much more so than after, say, spending an afternoon pleasure reading or running errands.

blueberryhil ~ Definitely – it’s so funny how it all works. I’m glad that everyone seems to think the same thing!

27 Christie September 6, 2008 at 5:40 am

I sometimes wonder if I did not know what time it was if i would be thinking I need to eat… I have been trying to be more mindful of my hunger and not eat just because it has been 3hrs or whatever… interetsed to see how this goes for you!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: