Busy days can lead to bad eating behavior, not just with what we eat but also with how quickly we eat it.
“We rush, throw down food as fast as we can and get back to the next task,” says Dr. Garett Franklin, a sports and family medicine physician. “I live this on a daily basis, going to the cafeteria and putting a sandwich in my pocket on my way to my next patient.”
Franklin says studies show that slowing down the pace at which you eat can have dramatic health benefits, and you won’t necessarily have to give up eating what you want to achieve them.
Improve digestive function
Your body reacts as soon as you start thinking about food. Digestive mechanisms begin with your mouth watering. Then your intestinal hormones get going. These functions are part of the process to help your body digest efficiently.
“When you rush, your body never gets in the mode to break down food efficiently,” Franklin says. “The theory is that’s why you don’t feel full as fast. You’re not giving the body time to signal back to the brain that you have enough calories in there.”
Researchers at the University of Rhode Island examined how eating speed affected the early stages of digestive processing by observing 60 young adults eat a meal. They found that:
- Slow eaters consumed 2 ounces of food per minute.
- Medium-speed eaters consumed 2.5 ounces of food per minute.
- Fast eaters consumed 3.1 ounces of food per minute. They also took larger bites and chewed less before swallowing.
This shows that fast eaters eat more in a given amount of time, and the food isn’t well-processed. Eating slowly helps keep the body from playing digestive catch-up.
Maintain weight loss
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says the “I’m full” message takes about 20 minutes to send. As the University of Rhode Island experiment shows, fast eaters will take in more calories in that time than those who eat slowly.
Slowing down could decrease the risk of obesity, Franklin says. It could also help slow down the rate of diagnoses of diabetes and metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels). The syndrome increases a person’s risk for heart attack and stroke.
“This is independent of the type of food,” he says. “You don’t necessarily have to give up anything or change anything — just be mindful and slow down.”
“Dehydration can hurt your performance in the gym and athletic activities,” Franklin says. “Staying hydrated is important for working out and for your general health.”
Along with drinking water, getting fluids from food helps keep you hydrated. Eating slowly gives your digestive system time to take in those fluids and lubricate your body.
Tips for slowing down
- Set aside time to eat your meal. “Put it on your schedule; block time in your calendar,” Franklin says. “You need 20 to 30 minutes to take in calories in the most efficient, effective way.”
- Remove distractions. “Make eating the only thing you’re doing at that time,” he says. “Get away from the phone, the computer and the TV.”
- Put utensils down between each bite. “This physically keeps you from shoving things in your mouth,” Franklin says. “You’re consciously thinking about the next bite.”
- Chew, chew, chew. “Our system is hardwired to chew and then swallow,” he says. “If you’re consciously thinking about chewing, try to add two to three more before you swallow.”
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