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Eating Habits

An article in the May/June 2008 issue of AARP’s magazine called “Eat Smart” provides interesting information about ways to change your eating if you’re looking to lose weight. My purpose in blogging about these ideas is not to emphasis a weight focus, but to help you pay more attention to your eating habits and dining environment.

One area mentioned in the article is the amount and kind of noise around when you’re eating. According to studies in Northern Ireland and Canada, people eat more when there’s background noise, and loud, fast music increases consumption. It makes sense that eating would accelerate to keep pace with the music. Alternately, these studies conclude that slow, soft music isn’t optimum for eating either because it encourages us to eat slower than what we need for healthy digestion. Unconsciously, our eating either slows down or speeds up to the beat. Slow music also keeps people hanging around the dinner table so they continue to eat past fullness and satisfaction.

According to a Georgia State University study review, soft light reduces the likelihood of overeating while bright light may increase it. Apparently soft light is soothing, so we relax while we’re dining, while overly bright light may rev us up. Here’s one you probably already know: eating in front of the TV delays the response to satiation. It’s no news that TV (and other) distraction prevents us from staying connected to appetite signals. My recommendation is that unless you’re a solid “normal” eater, avoid eating while watching TV, doing computer work, talking on the phone, or reading.

Studies also discuss the importance of chewing food thoroughly to release saliva enzymes that help carbohydrates get converted immediately to fuel so they’re not stored as fat. Plus, chewing slowly helps us taste food because flavor keeps being released, letting the stomach fill up gradually and signal when we’ve had enough. Breathing between mouthfuls is important to slow down eating and help synchronize the stomach and brain. One final factor that increases food consumption (not mentioned in this article, but from another study I read) is the more people at the table, the more everyone eats. We may be so bombarded with external stimuli that it’s hard to focus on what we’re eating or feel a sense of competition around a great many people that kicks in a primitive need to eat more to ensure we get our share.

Take advantage of the fact that many aspects of eating are now being studied. Test out these ideas and see if they make a difference in eating more “normally.”