Finally: The Science Behind Why You Can’t Stop Snacking At Work

It's not because of boredom.

donuts
Image via iStock

We all have those moments (though we wish they came more often): you’re finally out of your writer’s block, can’t put down that incredible book, and are being the most productive you’ve been in weeks. But that sense of productivity and overwhelming efficiency is completely cut short when you see a donut or a candy bar. Don’t worry, it’s not just you. And science is finally here to explain why that happens.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University performed a study where they asked participants to complete a test, one completely unrelated to food. While they were breezing through the project (and likely not thinking about a snack or their next meal), they were randomly shown a picture of a food (anything from a low-calorie to a high-energy snack).

Immediately, researchers were able to note that when people were shown energy-dense food (think: sugar- and calorie-filled cookies and donuts) they were far more distracted from completing their assigned task.

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(And if that donut image completely distracted you from this story, we get it.)

“This suggests that participants rapidly and implicitly assessed the nutritional value of the distractor images presented to them, even when they were entirely irrelevant,” says study author Corbin Cunningham. “When interesting food stimuli are entirely irrelevant to a task, they still cause some kind of disruption.”

So what does that mean for us?

If you’re powering through an assignment and need to meet a deadline, it’s best to keep those calorie-rich snacks far away from you — both the foods themselves, and any mention of them.

Not only can they derail your diet, but they can significantly distract you from getting your work done.

Now if you’re looking for a reward (after completing your to-do’s, of course), a little treat might not be out of the question. Just make sure they’re not there to steal your attention when you finally reach the productivity level you’ve been wanting (and download these proven-to-work productivity apps to get you started). Let’s #GetItDone, then enjoy #CheatDay.