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5 tech traps that harm your health, and how to avoid them

Man on train with headphones and smartphone

We can’t live without technology these days. But have you ever thought about how it might be impacting your health?

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.

If you’re keen to limit the damage technology has on your health, avoid these five common tech traps.

Tech trap #1 Combining mealtime 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 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.

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.

Tech 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.

How to digitally detox

Try these four ways to tame your tech habit without really trying.

1 Turn your devices to silent. Hearing that ‘ding’ notification causes the same amount of mental distraction as actually using your phone or tablet.

2 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.

3 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.

4 And never (ever!) check your phone while you’re moving. You’ll be much safer too. Researchers from Queensland, Australia have confirmed that texting while walking significantly increases your accident and injury risk.

For more on how to do a digital detox read this

Did you know? Time spent binge-watching has risen by 18 per cent worldwide, according to the State of Online Video report.

First published: Nov 2019

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