Eat Slower and Chew More: Studies Show How You Can Lose Weight Without Going on a Diet!
Like most Americans, I have trouble making and keeping a New Year’s Resolution. This year I thought long and hard about a resolution that would be both beneficial to my health and moderately easy for me to maintain.
This year my New Year’s Resolution is to eat my food slower, and spend more time chewing. Because I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday, this New Year’s Resolution will be difficult to avoid because it will (literally) be up in my face three times daily.
I started rapid-fire eating my food at a very young age by watching my father. He would eat breakfast at 5am, have a long day in the office, skip lunch, and then come home starving every night. He also was frequently on-call, so he had very limited eating windows. It wasn’t unusual for him to run into the house, immediately sit down to dinner, eat his food in under 10 minutes and then be back out the door.
But unless you are in serious need of calories and are on a time crunch, this isn’t a healthy way to consume your food. In fact, the average American consumes his or her food way too fast.
I could not find specific research studying the amount of time an average American spends over a plate a food, but I did find other facts that suggest we are all eating too fast.
- At least 1 in 4 people eat some type of fast food everyday
- 20% of all American meals are eaten in a car
- 21 percent of Americans – totaling 66 million – say they just find something to eat, “whenever they have the chance.” About half of these on-the-go eaters say they don’t consider food’s nutrition and calories.
- When time is a constraint, Americans are likely to get something on the go (43%) or skip the meal all together (21%). When eating on the go, 63% of respondents might grab something from home, 45% would go to a drive-thru restaurant and 31% might stop at a convenience store or gas station.
What do these facts tell us? It seems that food, in terms of the quality of food we are putting into our bodies as well as time spent eating food, have both gone down.
These two factors combined could be a huge reason for why the obesity epidemic in America has spiraled out of control.
Why is the time we spend eating so important? Because time spent eating can be directly tied to the amount of calories consumed. In a 2014 study published by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers found that both “normal weight” and overweight/obese people both ate fewer calories when they ate slower.
In 2013, the same journal found that increasing the number of chews before each bite reduced food consumption. An additional finding was that on average, “normal-weight” people were chewing slower in general.
It takes approximately 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to send out signals of fullness. So if you scarf down two hamburgers, a large fry and a soft drink in 15 minutes and still feel hungry, it’s not because you have a massive stomach, it’s just because you haven’t given your body enough time to register that it’s full. Before you reach for more food, wait at least 20 minutes.
Chewing in also a crucial factor of eating and digestion that is often overlooked. Digestion begins in your mouth, before you even swallow. The chewing process, also called mastication, is vital for helping your intestines absorb nutrients as food particles pass through.
Inadequate chewing causes foods to pass through your GI tract without being properly broken down, wasting key nutrients.
What’s the recommended amount of chews per bite? Researchers can’t seem to agree, but most charts top off at 40-chews-per-bite. Some dietitians have taken it so far as to recommend 100-chews-per-bite, but somewhere in-between 40 and 100 is probably the perfect soft spot. Chew your food until it liquefies and loses all texture.
WHAT THE DOCTOR SAYS:
In addition to contributing to satiety and weight control, eating meals more slowly does increase our body’s access to nutrients in unprocessed foods such as raw vegetables, fruits and nuts. The breakdown of plant-based foods begins with the disruption of the plant’s structure by the teeth followed by exposure to enzymes contained in saliva. In addition to enzymes, saliva contains epidermal growth factor (EGF) which stimulates cellular growth of the lining of the esophagus and stomach, essential to the health of those organs. Saliva also contains a protein, haptocorrin also known as transcobalamin I, which binds to and protects vitamin B12 against degradation in the stomach.