In today’s blog, I want to provide you with the simplest, arguably most useful piece of nutrition advice ever: SLOW EATING, which I found it so tricky myself to follow.
The benefits of slow eating include better digestion, better hydration, more natural weight loss or maintenance, and greater satisfaction with our meals. Meanwhile, eating fast leads to poor digestion, increased weight gain, and lower satisfaction. The message is clear: Slow down your eating and enjoy improved health and well-being.
When you eat slowly, you digest better. You lose or maintain weight more quickly. Yet you also feel more satisfied with each meal.
Conversely, if you rush your meals, your digestion suffers. Meals are stressful. And it might seem like each meal is over too soon, which often makes you want to eat more. Or you “overshoot the runway,” finishing the meal before your natural satiety signals kick in, and ending up suddenly — uncomfortably — overstuffed.
It’s simple: Slow down your eating and enjoy improved health and well-being.
We’re a rushed, distracted, and too-busy society. Most people living in urban Fastlane eat fast. We rarely take the time to savor our food or sometimes even to chew it properly.
We rush our food no matter who we are, even if you’re a health coach like me.
I have to learn to eat more slowly again. It’s not always easy. But my wife and my waistline both appreciate it when I do.
Learning to eat more slowly is one of the simplest yet most powerful things you can do to improve your overall health.
Eating slowly also helps our digestion. Think of digestion as a chain reaction. As soon as we see, smell, or think about food, we start salivating to prepare for putting that food in our mouth. Saliva contains enzymes that break the food down and moistens the mouth for easier swallowing. Meanwhile, digestive steps 3, 4, 5, etc. have to get ready to go to work. Our stomachs start to secrete more acid. Our small intestine starts to get available for some peristalsis. And so forth.
If we rush this process, we force our GI tract to deal with stuff before it’s fully prepared. Surprises are great on birthdays, not so great during digestion.
At the University of Rhode Island, researchers examined how eating speed affected the early stages of digestive processing by observing 60 young adults eat a meal.
- 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 per minute. They also took larger bites and chewed less before swallowing.
It means that not only are fast eaters putting more food down in a given amount of time, but that food also isn’t as well-processed. Food is mainly landing in fast eaters’ stomachs in big oil’ lumps.
Digestion starts in the mouth, so large bites that are inadequately chewed will be more difficult for your stomach to turn into chyme – the liquid mix of partially digested food, hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes, and water that passes through the pyloric valve on its way to elimination.
Food that does not break down into chyme can lead to indigestion and other potential GI problems. And who wants that?
Eating slowly helps you to eat less. That’s especially useful information if you’re trying to lose or maintain weight.
In another University of Rhode Island study, researchers served lunch on two different occasions to 30 normal-weight women. A meal consisted of an enormous plate of pasta, a tomato-vegetable sauce, and some Parmesan cheese, along with a glass of water.
At each visit, researchers instructed the women to eat to the point of comfortable fullness. But during one visit, they also told them to eat as quickly as possible, while on the other visit, participants were asked to eat slowly and to put down their utensils between bites.
When the researchers compared the difference in food consumption between the quickly eaten lunch and the slowly eaten lunch, here is what they found:
- When eating fast, women consumed 646 calories in 9 minutes.
- When eating slowly, women consumed 579 calories in 29 minutes.
That is 67 fewer calories in 20 more minutes!
If you extrapolate that to three meals per day, you can see how quickly those extra calories could add up.
And here’s another interesting twist: When the women gobbled their lunch, they reported more hunger an hour later than they did after their slowly eaten lunch.
So not only did eating fast lead to higher food consumption, it satisfied the women less! Conversely, of course, slow eating meant less food but more long-lasting satisfaction.
Although incredibly simple, it’s not easy. After all, most people rush through the day with little time to spare for anything, and when you do have time to eat, you likely gobble it down—probably while you’re trying to multi-task on something else.
However, slow eating has a number of advantages:
- Slow eating helps you “check-in,” be present, and pay attention to what (and how much) you’re eating and why. Eating when distracted, on the other hand, leads to overeating both acutely and at subsequent meals. An example of “being distracted”… you are at a social gathering, most people hover in the kitchen and while they socialize, they “snack” on the “munchies” that are out on the counter. I’m guilty of this too, but we need to be careful as a study shows that doing this for 15 mins can add an average of 450 calories to your day.
- Slow eating allows you to sense into your body’s internal hunger and fullness cues. I also suggest drinking water with every meal. It also helps to “fill” your stomach, which in return will decrease calorie consumption.
- Slow eating enhances digestion, allowing your body to pull out vital nutrients.
Not only that, eating slowly can help you lose weight. Several studies have shown that only by eating more slowly, folks consume fewer calories—in fact, enough to drop 20 pounds in a year without doing anything different!
With that in mind, slow down when you eat; take smaller bites; chew each bite slower, longer, and ultimately; put your fork down between bites; eat with your non-dominant hand, or enjoy a conversation with someone.