Can we be honest for a second?
Eating healthy can be quite the struggle sometimes. I mean, we are surrounded by unhealthy food on a regular basis. There is no escaping it and there are those days where you can be overwhelmed by stress and make a poor decision. Instead of just having one serving of mac and cheese at dinner, we have two, or three, maybe even four (guilty). It isn't easy to resist these hyperpalatable foods, they have the perfect combination of fat, sugar and salt. However, a good conversation or distraction always caused me to eat less.
So that got me thinking, What if we slowed down our eating, would we eat less food?
Well, the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics answered this question for us by performing a study. The study found that eating slowly reduced calorie intake and increased fullness.(1)
Why does this happen?
Well, we are lucky once again because Ann MacDonald, a writer for Harvard Health answered this question for us:
"Stretch receptors in the stomach are activated as it fills with food or water; these signal the brain directly through the vagus nerve that connects gut and brain stem. Hormonal signals are released as partially digested food enters the small intestine. One example is cholecystokinin (CCK), released by the intestines in response to food consumed during a meal. Another hormone, leptin, produced by fat cells, is an adiposity signal that communicates with the brain about long-range needs and satiety, based on the body’s energy stores. Research suggests that leptin amplifies the CCK signals, to enhance the feeling of fullness. Other research suggests that leptin also interacts with the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain to produce a feeling of pleasure after eating. The theory is that, by eating too quickly, people may not give this intricate hormonal cross-talk system enough time to work."
Just in case you skipped that quote, let me say that again. When you eat too fast you are overriding your body's natural digestion process. Now, if your goal was to gain weight then you should eat as fast as possible because that would allow you to consume an enormous amount of calories without your body realizing it, but if your goal is to lose weight we should slow down our eating. This concept sounds simple, but it is hard to do. Sometimes, it can be made easier if you gamify it or apply a challenge. You can do this by making sure you chew your food 20 times before swallowing. This number may seem high to you, but most people suggest that you chew up to 40 times before consuming your food. Start small and slowly build your way up to a higher number. I want you to realize that you aren't going to be doing this for the rest of your life. Overtime, this mechanism will turn into a habit and you won't even have to worry about counting, it will seem natural.
Nevertheless, when eating, regardless of how fast or slow, you need to be grateful for the food on your plate. Most people are in autopilot mode eating and consuming without even thinking about the food. Instead of taking the time to enjoy the meal, they stress themselves out by letting their mind wander on the past and future. Before they know it, they have finished their whole plate, but don’t feel content. Since their is a plethora of food available, the typical human will grab another helping and another until they physically can’t eat any more.
I promise you, if you take the time to be appreciative and enjoy your food, you will lose weight. Follow the simple rule of eating slower and you will develop a better relationship with food. Remember, food is meant to enhance our life and make us the best version of ourself. Nevertheless, this won’t be easy in the beginning. It is going to be challenging and you are going to have to be disciplined in your ways. Don't lose faith if you struggle, it is just a bump in the road. We all struggle in life. I struggle every single day, but we must remind ourselves why we are doing it. Never lose sight of your task at hand. You chose to do this for a reason, find that reason every morning you wake up and stick to it.