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One of the most effective changes you can make to stop overeating, is to s-l-o-w down. Compared to slow eaters, fast eaters recall less about what they’ve eaten, want to eat again sooner, and are more prone to weight gain. In fact, there’s evidence for a correlation between the pace at which we eat and the quantity of food eaten.
Two University of Rhode Island studies prove this point. One compared eating rates and calories consumed for men and women. Rapid eaters ate “about 3.1 ounces of food per minute, versus 2.5 ounces per minute for medium-speed eaters and 2 ounces per minute for slow eaters.” Which category do you fall into? If you’re a fast eater, aim to become a medium-paced eater and if you’re already one, set your sights on becoming a slow eater. More news—it seems that, on the whole, men consume more calories at a sitting than women do. Is that because they’re larger than women? Not necessarily. “Researchers reported that men who said they ate slowly ate at about the same rate as women who said they ate quickly.” So maybe what’s going on is a difference in perception of eating speed.
Another study looked at the pace of eating for men and women consuming different foods. “Overall, liquid meals were eaten more quickly than solid meals, and men consumed both liquid and solid foods faster than women.” It seems that both men and women might eat more slowly by pacing themselves with a female dining companion, and that women may need to watch out that they don’t pick up the pace when they’re dining with a man. The final conclusions from the study are that “people with a higher body mass index in general ate much faster than those with a lower BMI” and that “foods with whole grains were eaten more slowly than similar foods made with refined grains” which usually require more chewing before swallowing.
Most of us could benefit from eating more slowly, not simply to eat or weigh less, but to take time out to relax while we’re dining to enjoy and digest our food. Part of the problem is our rush-rush culture and the pressure we put on ourselves to be productive and get things done. If you want to eat “normally,” do whatever you can to slow down. Before you take your first bite, visualize yourself eating slowly, then check in with yourself frequently to see if you’re following through. If you find yourself speeding up, put on the brakes. You’ll see that this small change will make a big difference in increasing eating pleasure and helping you stop eating when you’re full or satisfied.
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