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Chew More, Eat Less

  • Eating
I often say that sometimes how and what you eat is like a train’s locomotive and what you weigh is like its caboose. Not that we can always control weight by diet, as 50-70% of what we weigh may be due to genetics. However, according to new research, we may have an impact on how much (or less) food we eat just by chewing more.
Here’s some of the science behind this theory from “Why slow eaters may burn more calories” by Markham Heid ( Health, Diet/Nutrition, 4/12/17, accessed 9/9/17,
“Some preliminary research has found that chewing until “no lumps remain” increases the number of calories the body burns during digestion: about 10 extra calories for a 300-calorie meal. Eating fast, on the other hand, barely burns any calories.” (“The number of chews and meal duration affect diet-induced thermogenesis and splanchnic circulation” by Hamada, Kashima, and Hayashi, 5/1/14, Obesity, doi: 10.1002/oby.20715)
The point, of course, isn’t to count calories at all, but to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n the pace at which you eat. Meena Shah, a professor of nutrition at Texas Christian University, “found that people who eat slowly tend to eat less. Slow eating may help people eat more mindfully and tune into their own feelings of fullness,” she says. “Fast eating, on the other hand, has been linked to a 35% increase in a person’s risk for metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health problems that includes high blood pressure and blood sugar, poor cholesterol numbers and excess abdominal fat.”
Coincidentally, the week I read this article, a client made a discovery that she said was helping her to eat more normally. “I’m chewing a lot,” she said, “that’s all,” explaining that she was eating less by chewing more, whatever food was involved. She reported feeling less stuffed and that her lab numbers already had improved. She was thrilled that she need not deprive herself of foods she loved and that simply by chewing them into tinier pieces found herself eating less of them.
What kind of chewer are you: fast or slow? I used to barely chew my food and it disappeared rapidly. Now, I’m often the last person finished because I’m so poky at chewing and swallowing each mouthful. I encourage you to plan a meal when you can experiment with chewing intently for five minutes, then barely chewing and eating as fast as you usually do. Notice the difference in how food tastes and how much you consume. Practice chewing slowly at least one meal a day. You will need to make it a deliberate practice for it to become habit. But, what a wonderful habit to develop.