Eat Slowly to Lose Weight

Eat Slowly to Lose WeightThrough the ages, eating slowly and chewing thoroughly have been taught to children as proper dinner table etiquette. The objectives were good manners, the enjoyment of food, and proper digestion. But as it turns out, there are positive health ramifications to eating slowly that go beyond digestive issues.

Slowly Savoring Your Food Lessens Appetite

Although dieticians have recommended eating slowly for decades, their advice was based on anecdotal evidence. Recent years have seen great advances in the field of appetite control that have allowed clinical trials to confirm what was always suspected. To prove the theory that eating slowly could impact appetite, scientists have focused on the hormonal changes that occur in the gut after a meal.

When you’re hungry, there’s an increase in an appetite-stimulating (orexigenic) hormone called ghrelin. The presence of this peptide prompts you to eat. As you consume food, ghrelin levels decrease. Simultaneously, there are appetite-suppressing (anorexigenic) hormones that increase after a meal. These are called PYY (peptide YY) and GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide.) All of these peptides – ghrelin, PYY, and GLP-1 — act on the hypothalamus to control the quantity of food you eat by regulating hunger and feelings of satiation.

Armed with this new knowledge about the mechanics of appetite, researchers conducted a study early this year, at Athens University Medical School. The study was published in 2010 in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. During a crossover study, subjects receive a sequence of treatments. In this case, the treatments amounted to 300 ml – about a cup and a half – of ice cream. The test subjects were 17 male volunteers. For the first treatment, the volunteers ate the ice cream within 5 minutes. For the second treatment, the ice cream was divided into seven portions, and it was consumed over the course of 30 minutes. Blood samples were drawn periodically to measure the appetite-related peptides, as well as insulin, plasma lipids, and glucose levels.

Interestingly, the anorexigenic peptides, PYY and GLP-1, were present in significantly higher quantities when the ice cream was consumed in thirty minutes, as compared to five. This resulted in higher feelings of satiation, which in turn resulted in less food consumed. This study was the first to give a biochemical interpretation of the long-held dieticians’ advice to eat slowly as a way to control appetite.

Eating Slowly Means Eating Less

A different study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2008 sought to establish an empirical connection between eating slowly and eating less. This study was conducted at the University of Rhode Island’s Dept. of Nutrition and Food Sciences. It compared the impact of both slow eating and quick eating on feelings of satiation, using 30 healthy women as test subjects.

The women were offered a lunch with generous portions – about 21 ounces of food – and told to eat as much as they liked until they reached satiation. On the ‘fast eating’ day, they were given a soupspoon and told to eat at a fast-though-comfortable pace, with no pause between bites. On the ‘slow eating’ day, the women were given a teaspoon and told to take small bites, to chew each mouthful between 20 and 30 times, and to set the utensil down between bites.

The results of the experiment were that when the women ate quickly, they still felt hungry even though they had eaten more food. When they ate slowly, they stopped eating before all the food was consumed, they drank more water with their meal, and they reported enjoying their food more. Further, it was shown that regardless of the amount of food eaten, a meal’s physiological feedback to the brain takes at least 20 minutes to register.

The Link Between Eating Fast And Obesity

What do the above observations mean? Can the higher feelings of hunger and the increased food intake associated with gulping down your food result in weight gain or even obesity?

The Mayurama study, which was published in 2002 in the British Medical Journal, sought to make a connection between eating fast and being either overweight or obese. A cross-sectional survey collected data from over 4,000 Japanese adults. On the questionnaire, they were asked to identify the pace at which they ate their meals: very slowly; slowly; medium pace; quickly; or very quickly. Those who responded that they ate quickly or very quickly were most likely to be overweight or obese. Those respondents who ate slowly or very slowly had the lowest values for caloric consumption, weight, and body mass index.

How To Lose Weight By Eating Slowly

If you have trouble eating slowly, you can follow these simple steps to slow down your food consumption rate:

  • Use a small utensil. A large fork or soupspoon will encourage shoveling food in your mouth. Try eating with a teaspoon or dessert fork, or even a pair of chopsticks. This will make it easier to take small bites.
  • Set down your utensil between bites. Set the fork or other utensil beside your plate after each bite, and put your hand in your lap.
  • Chew thoroughly. There’s no better way to ensure that you’re chewing more slowly than to count to 20 or 30. Once you start doing this, you may be amazed to realize how quickly you were wolfing down your food in the past.
  • Eat a small, healthy appetizer. Since it takes 20 minutes before your brain registers the feedback from food, eating an appetizer will encourage appetite suppressing hormones to increase, and ghrelin levels to decrease, so that you eat less at the subsequent meal.
  • Put smaller portions on the plate. Try putting half the amount you would normally eat on your plate. After consuming it slowly, wait 5 or 10 minutes before putting the rest of the portion on your plate. You may be surprised to see that you already have feelings of satiety before consuming that second helping.

Eating Slowly Is Easy To Do

Of all the components of a weight loss program – reduced calories, exercise, low-fat foods – eating slowly is one of the simplest techniques to try, and yet it’s very effective. Slowing down allows you to savor the aroma, texture and flavor of your meal, so that you feel more satisfied from fewer calories. When combined with a healthy diet and increased activity levels, eating slowly can help you achieve your weight loss goals.


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