Is Reading While Eating Bad for You?

Reading While Eating

While reading is an amazingly beneficial activity, we also tend to figure out all kinds of creative ways to make it even more pleasurable. Eating and reading at the same time, drinking a cup of coffee or tea, and even enjoying a glass of wine while reading are all pretty common choices. 

Reading while eating is known for providing a pretty satisfying experience and it can also have an influence on your reading performance but are there also any risks associated with pairing these two activities? That is what we are here to find out, and since we are incredibly dedicated to exploring all the possible aspects of reading here at Basmo, we did extensive research to find out what you should expect from the habit of snacking while reading. 

Is eating while reading a good practice?

Reading and eating generally go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly. Snacking is usually quite pleasurable and satisfying, and doing it while also enjoying a good book can only turn the experience up to eleven. Deciding whether it’s a good practice depends on quite a large number of factors. While some people are going to claim that reading while eating is extremely beneficial, nutritionists are going to shake their heads in total disagreement. 

Overeating is a very serious issue in civilized countries for a couple of decades now. How cheap and available the food is, mixed with a lack of education among the population, has led to overeating becoming a common occurrence and to an always increasing rate of obesity and type two diabetes among the population. Binge eating has been linked to a series of other unhealthy habits, and, perhaps surprisingly, reading made the list.

Even though reading in itself is highly regarded as a beneficial and rewarding activity, when it is paired with eating, it often becomes a distraction. Not paying attention to what we eat and how much can have severe effects on our health and general well-being.

That being said, our opinion at Basmo is somewhat different. We think eating or snacking while reading can be a good match if we do it carefully, we are mindful of the possible side effects, and we use our common sense to choose what we eat and how much. Eating while reading a book can be a nice experience, and if we are careful with the choices we make, we can bypass most of the negative effects.

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Is eating and reading at the same time bad?

Well, it depends on who you ask. Nutritionists are always going to advise against it. The reason for that is pretty simple. The danger of eating while reading is overeating, that is undeniably true. How we end up overeating while reading is quite interesting though.

If we eat while reading, watching TV, or scrolling on our phones, we tend to pay less attention to how our bodies react to the food we eat. We tend to eat more than we need to because we don’t notice the signals our bodies send us telling us that we are full. While this is clearly not a good thing, the positive aspect we need to focus on is that this can be easily avoided. If we are aware of the possible negative aspects of eating while reading, we can prevent those quite easily through a series of measures I will expand on a bit further below. 

Is reading while eating bad for digestion?

No direct link has been found between eating while reading and developing digestive issues. An indirect connection does exist though. As I was saying above, focusing our attention on other things when eating can have a negative effect on how aware we are of the portions we eat and this can become problematic. 

Overeating does have a couple of negative effects on how our digestive system works. If we indulge ourselves too much and eat portions that are larger than what our bodies require, we can end up bloated and uncomfortable, forcing our digestive system to take too long to digest the food which makes the process less effective, we can become sleepy or nauseous, and we can even impair our brain function to a certain extent. 

On top of this, if we focus too much on our reading and we overeat, we can enlarge our stomachs beyond the point of what our bodies require in terms of food quantities. A larger stomach means we will require more food to feel full, which can later turn into obesity and other eating-related diseases. 

Another important aspect we should pay attention to when eating and reading at the same time is the position we do it in. Despite what ergonomics experts advise, most people tend to do their reading lying down or sitting back on a couch. These positions are definitely not ideal for eating. If you eat lying down, you expose yourself to a series of unnecessary risks. One of the most obvious dangers of eating lying down while also reading is choking. Being in any other position than a vertical one increases your risk of choking significantly and is one of the most important reasons why eating and reading lying down is to be avoided. 

While reading lying down is not ideal either, the negative effects of eating and reading at the same time lying down go even further. Eating from a horizontal position can also lead to GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease), which is an extremely uncomfortable condition to suffer from. While it rarely develops into more serious conditions, it can force you to change your lifestyle and become somewhat dependent on medication that alleviates the symptoms. Overeating and especially eating while lying down are some of the most common bad habits that lead to GERD, otherwise known as heartburn.

What are the side effects of reading while eating?

While the general consensus in the reading enthusiasts community is that seeing your kid eating and reading is a moment of joy, we should still be mindful of the risks we are exposing ourselves to when we eat and read at the same time. There are some benefits you can enjoy as well, but even though it may seem like a rather simple activity, there’s a lot to take into account whenever you do it. 

Benefits of reading while eating

Before we start looking a bit more in detail at the negative effects, let’s see what benefits we can enjoy if we read and eat at the same time.

  1. You save time by doing two things at once. Time is a very valuable resource these days and anything that helps us save some time is generally worth doing. We work long hours, we spend more time on our commute to and from work, the house chores are exhausting and time-consuming, and we are generally left with very little time in a day to actually do something we enjoy.

    If reading and eating at the same time mean you get an extra 15 minutes of time to spend on yourself every day, you may find it an appealing solution in your time management struggle.
  2. You may feel happier. One thing about reading that is always worth mentioning whenever the subject comes up is that it is an amazing stress relief tool. Reading helps us relax our bodies and mind in ways that are generally not matched by any other activity. If we pair reading with the joy we feel whenever we eat a food we love, the effect can only be even more satisfying and rewarding.

    It’s a well-known and scientifically proven fact that food can make people feel happier, so enjoying a healthy plate of food while also reading something that makes us feel good can be a very satisfying experience.
  3. You could do more reading. Another reason why reading while eating can be a positive experience is that it can push you to read a little more than you would normally do. Rewarding yourself with a tasty snack whenever you finish a chapter, for example, can program your brain into never allowing you to put a book down without finishing a chapter.

    If you are mindful of your snacking and use it wisely while reading, you can achieve pretty great results for your reading habits. 

Side effects of reading and eating at the same time

Now, let’s move on to the less fun part. The negative aspects of reading while eating are not to be ignored, even though the positives may seem quite appealing. Let’s see what we have to deal with.

  1. You can overeat. As I mentioned earlier, not paying attention to our meals or to how much we snack while we are focused on completely different things can lead to serious overeating problems.

    If we are not careful when our bodies signal that we are full, we can end up putting way too much food in our system. While in individual sessions, this generally only leads to some discomfort, bloating, and possibly nausea, in the long term the effects can be a lot more severe.
  2. You can choke. Another serious risk of eating while reading has a more immediate effect. Choking is clearly no joke and we tend to expose to this risk a lot more when we eat and read at the same time simply because we are less attentive to our eating and we generally do it in a less than ideal position, to put it mildly. If we read lying down and eat at the same time, things can turn south quite quickly and quite severely. 
  3. You can end up eating too late in the day. A pretty common habit among book lovers is to do most of their reading late in the evening or right before going to sleep. While there are certainly benefits to having this habit of reading before bed, eating right before we sleep is generally a pretty bad idea.

    Even though the fact that eating at night makes us gain weight has been proven to be a myth, nutritionists still advise us to refrain from eating anything for at least two hours before going to bed. Eating too late can make us sleep worse, get less rest, and even feel discomfort all throughout the night. 
  4. You can develop eating disorders or digestive issues. Even though the effects of individual reading and snacking sessions are generally quite easy to manage, they can have seriously negative effects in the long run. If we get into the habit of overeating or eating too late in the day or while lying down, we can end up with a larger stomach, GERD, obesity issues, or even type two diabetes. 

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How to eat while reading to avoid the side effects

The key to reading while eating is moderation. Being mindful of how much we eat and how we choose the snacks we indulge ourselves with while reading a book can make the difference between a nice experience and developing lifelong eating disorders or digestive issues. 

Here are a couple of tips and tricks to help you bypass the possible side effects.

1. Choose your snacks wisely

You are what you eat. It’s an age-old saying, but it couldn’t be more valid today. Be mindful of what you eat and how you choose your reading snacks. You should avoid things that are sugary, fatty, or too salty. Manage your carbs, sugar, and salt intake on a daily basis, and make sure that your snacks are as healthy as possible. 

You are a lot less likely to feel the negative effects of reading while eating if you snack on baby carrots than if your reading snack is chocolate or jerky. While this is something you should be mindful of all the time, it is especially important to factor in while reading. 

2. Pay attention to how much you eat

Portion control is essential. Never take a full bag of chips with you on the couch to read and snack because you are probably going to eat the whole thing. Whether you’re snacking on chips, Cheetos, or healthy nuts, you should still make sure to put them in a small bowl that can only hold a decent amount. 

3. Don’t read and eat lying down

Probably the biggest no-no when it comes to reading while eating is doing it lying down. You risk choking on the snacks you eat, you expose yourself to the danger of developing GERD or simply making a huge mess all around you on the couch or bed and it certainly isn’t worth it. Instead, you should sit in an upright position, preferably on a chair, with your book and bowl of food sitting on a table in front of you. 

4. Set a schedule for your reading sessions

Yes, our lives are pretty hectic and we rarely know when we are going to have some time for ourselves. But that certainly doesn’t mean that we have zero control over our habits. 

To avoid reading and eating at night or even right before going to bed, we should try and schedule our reading sessions earlier in the day. Adding some structure to our reading habits is generally a good idea anyway, and it can certainly help us avoid a lot of the negative effects of snacking while reading. 

5. Use Basmo

Basmo is a reading tracking app developed to match every single need of the modern reader. Believe it or not, that applies to the habit of reading and eating at the same time. 

Here’s how Basmo can help you manage your snacking habits while reading.

You can use it to set a reading schedule

We already established that having a reading schedule is a good way of avoiding the risks you expose yourself to when reading and eating at the same time, but what you didn’t know until now is that you can create this schedule right from our app. 

The dedicated feature allows you to select the days of the week you want to read in, and different times for each reading session so you can adjust your schedule to your regular routine, and it will even remind you of any upcoming reading sessions.

Take notes and keep a journal

We encourage our users to be mindful of their reading. That is why our app allows you to take notes easily while reading and even comes with a journaling feature you can use to jot down your thoughts about the reading you’re doing. 

While this is not necessarily the reason why these functionalities are in place, they both can be used to keep track of your snacking. You can easily make notes of what you eat while reading and later use those notes to decide whether you should keep eating those particular snacks based on how you felt after your reading session.

Take breaks to make sure you know if you are full

Whenever you use Basmo while reading, it will automatically record certain information about your reading session. One of the most important pieces of information you will have at hand is the length of your sessions. Since you will be timed, you can simply choose to take breaks from your reading and snacking every 15 minutes.

During these breaks, since you will no longer be paying attention to your reading, you will certainly get back in touch with the signals you receive from your body. This will help you make sure you don’t overeat. 

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Final thoughts

Reading and eating at the same time can be a nice experience if you make a couple of smart choices, despite what most nutritionists will tell you. Use Basmo to add some order and structure to your reading habits, and be mindful of your eating or snacking.

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