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( — According to a new study, trying to balance too many unrelated tasks can result in self-discipline sabotage. As a result, you may find it harder to control your temper, resist fattening foods, or stick to your exercise routine.


Because doing things like compulsively checking your smartphone every two minutes as you help your kids do their homework, or frequently shifting between different tasks on the job, can exhaust the “executive function” of the brain.

The researchers behind the study, which is published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, have concluded that our brains are only wired to shift mental gears a limited number of times before the intellectual resources required for self control are exhausted. After a certain point, people become more prone to such behavior as emotional outbursts or cheating on their diet.

How does multi-tasking undermine healthy eating?

In one experiment, the volunteers were asked to think abstractly about one topic, think in more concrete or technical terms about another, or combine the two types of thought. Afterwards, the volunteers were offered a bitter-flavored beverage and told of its health benefits. Those who switched back and forth between concrete and abstract thought drank one-third the amount of the bitter beverage than did volunteers who were only asked to use one type of thought, thus demonstrating less self-control in healthy eating than did non-multi-taskers, the study found.

This finding could also apply to sticking to a weight-loss diet, which requires daily self-discipline, the researchers point out. Multi-tasking could make you more prey to the temptations of distracted eating, a common problem when people are stressed out by a hectic, juggling lifestyle.

Is Your Busy Life Making You Fat? was originally published on

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