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Eating Fast and Overweight

  • Eating

For 30 years I’ve been teaching people to slow down while they’re eating. It seems like common sense. After all, what’s the big rush? How often are we really (really, really) so harried and hurried that we can’t take time to enjoy food? Fast eating used to be just a bad habit. Now science is ringing the alarm bell and warning us that eating quickly and past full puts us at risk for becoming overweight.

According to a study published October 21, 2008 in the British Medical Journal, folks who both eat quickly and until full have a three-fold risk of becoming overweight compared to people who eat more slowly and stop before fullness. The study included 3,000 Japanese adults, males and females ages 30-69. It focused on the speed with which they ate and whether they stopped before or after fullness, then correlated these activities with their BMI (Body Mass Index). No surprise that rapid eaters who ate until full were more likely to carry excess pounds. Remember, it takes about 20 minutes for food to reach your stomach and for your brain to know you’ve had enough to eat.

Some advice for changing a rapid-eating habit. Believe me, I’m not suggesting anything you don’t already know, but these are good reminders.

Eat without distractions or cut down on them. Make it just you and the food and put your attention on taste and texture.
Don’t talk while you eat and don’t eat while you’re talking.
Don’t take one mouthful until you’ve completely swallowed the previous one.
Chew food thoroughly.
Allow food to sit on your tongue so that taste buds can do their job of signaling your brain about fullness and satisfaction.
Put food or utensils down between bites and focus on relaxing and enjoyment.

Eating too fast is a set up for overeating. Anyone—yes, anyone—can train themselves to slow down. While you’re at it, keep asking yourself if you’re still hungry. That works better than asking yourself if you’re full. When you’re no longer hungry, it’s time to stop eating. Before you eat, remind yourself to relax. Chew away, then push food onto your tongue and let it sit there for a few seconds. Use a timer to stretch out your dining experience. If you usually eat in 10 minutes, make it 20; if you generally take 5 minutes, push it to 10. Place a sign on the table that says, “Am I full yet? Am I satisfied?” These might seem like small steps, but they will garner big results.