Eating Too Fast Can Pile on the Pounds
Has your hectic lifestyle turned you into someone who gulps down meals?
People who eat quickly tend to eat more and have a higher body mass index (a measure of body fat based on height and weight) than those who eat slowly. People who eat slowly feel full sooner and eat less in the process.
Part of the reason for this is the time it takes for your brain to get key messages from your digestive system. Conventional wisdom says that’s about 20 minutes, and one study found that slowing down to 30 minutes is even more effective. But that means you have to find ways to really stretch out your meals.
Tricks like eating with your non-dominant hand can help a lot, but eating fast can be a hard habit to break. One high-tech solution is a commercially available smart fork, a utensil that registers your eating speed and sends a signal, with a vibration and a flash of light, if you eat too quickly. Participants in an experimental study found that it was comfortable to hold and did a good job of making them more aware of their eating speed. But you can also try to slow down on your own with a regular fork: Just put it down and count to 10 between each and every bite.
Reinforce the slower eating habit with portion cues such as using smaller plates and bowls. Part of feeling full is visual, and an overflowing smaller plate might trick your mind into thinking you’re eating more calories than you really are. Large dishes with empty spaces do the opposite, giving the illusion that your diet portions are smaller than they really are.
Always use measuring cups and spoons to dole out correct portions — you may be surprised at how you’ve supersized your meals on your own! Also, don’t go back for second helpings, and stay focused on your food — no TV or reading while you eat
Slow Down, You Chew Too Fast
For many of us, rushing through meals has become second nature. Breaking that habit takes some conscious effort. These strategies can help you develop a new habit of slowing down and savoring your food:
- Allow enough time. Make meals a priority item on your schedule. Block off at least 20 minutes for each meal. It can take that long for your body to send signals about fullness to your brain.
- Enlist all your senses. When you first start eating, take a few moments to really notice the aroma, flavor, crunchiness, texture and other sensory properties of the food. Then keep noticing these things as the meal goes on.
- Choose more chews. Take small bites, and chew them thoroughly. In addition to slowing you down, chewing well makes food easier to digest, which increases the absorption of nutrients.
- Put down that fork! It’s easy to slip into a robotic eating rhythm. Before you know it, you’re shoveling food into your mouth with the efficiency of an eating machine. Setting down your utensils between bites helps prevent that.
- Revive the art of table talk (even if you’re not sitting at a table). Chatting between bites is one of the most pleasant ways to stretch out a meal.
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