My good buddies over at Precision Nutrition have been implementing the “Eat Slow” tactic for health and weight management for a long time now as part of their programming (with massive success). I couldn’t possibly agree more with this, there are so many technical nuances when it comes to human metabolism, calories, macronutrients, micronutrients, digestion, etc. But, this simple act of eating slow checks so many of these boxes all by itself. Let’s have a look at some of the things we can pull from the scientific literature:
1. Eating slow gives your body the time it needs to recognize satisfaction. The process for chemicals to reach the brain and create feelings of fullness is not immediate. If we are eating at Homer Simpson speed, there is a gap between when your body didn’t need any more calories, and when you finally received your fullness signals. Everything you eat within that gap is likely overdoing it.
2. Eating slow allows you to relax and be mindful. When you slow down, savor a meal, pay attention to tastes and textures, and appreciate each mindful bite, you leave the table feeling good about the meal and more mentally satisfied as you were able to truly taste what you were eating, as opposed to just destroy it.
3. Eating slowly can improve your digestion. In essence, slowing the process of eating down allows for proper preparedness and digestive secretion of the entire digestive train (mouth, saliva, stomach, pancreas, small intestine, gallbladder, etc). The University of Rhode Island researched this with 60 young adults and found that slow eaters consumed 2oz of food per minute, whereas fast eaters consumed 3.1oz per minute. The fast eaters also took bigger bites and chewed less. This means the fast eating group is not only consuming more calories per meal, they are also breaking their food down improperly before it enters the stomach which leads to indigestion and gut health symptoms.
4. There is some opposing research on this one, but, as a whole slowing your eating down also tends to decrease peoples portion sizes without even trying. In an excellent study (once again by the U of RI) lunch was served on two different occasions, and both times lunch was a giant pasta meal. Women eating fast consumed 646 calories in 9 minutes, whereas women eating slow consumed 579 calories in 29 minutes. That’s less calories consumed in over 3x the time duration! This means less calories per meal, and MUCH more taste satisfaction due to being able to sit down and truly enjoy your food. Beyond this, the women who ate quickly reported greater hunger cravings only an hour later. The slow eating group did not have these same increased appetite problems post-meal. Those additional calories per meal will add up overtime, and that increased appetite will as well because it will likely make your cravings more intense.
5. Lastly, eating slowly is also associated to better hydration levels which plays a huge role towards our health, bowel movements, physical performance, digestion, and pretty much everything else you can think of. In the same above pasta study, the women who ate slow drank 409 mL (about 14 oz) of water. The women who ate quickly, drank only 289 mL (9.7 oz) of water. This is REALLY important to care about because not only does this play a role in our health and digestion, but the science is also very clear that water alone helps increase feelings of fullness during a meal which can help drive total calories down across the entire day without even thinking about it.
So, is eating quickly a bad thing then?
Nope, to each their own.
But, eating slowly does offer the body plenty of positives, with none of the associated negatives that eating quickly has such as poorer digestion, possible bingeing habits, and increased susceptibility of weight gain. I think eating slow is an excellent habit, especially for our fast-paced lives. It allows us to be mindful, take a break, and be a healthier person.
Ok I got it! I need to jump on this eating slow train, how should I start?
Today I gave you an extensive list of reasons on why you should start eating slower to promote health, weight loss, improved digestion, and improved hydration. Now let’s put that theory into action!
IMMEDIATELY ACTIONABLE STRATEGIES:
1. Eat in a calm environment and pay attention to your food. This means do not eat in front of the TV or computer, and also not while you’re in the car or on your phone. Eat mindfully and purposefully.
2. Choose high fiber/water foods that take time to chew, such as high-water volume fruits and vegetables.
3. Use smaller plates and smaller utensils. This can have a huge impact on your eating and has enough research by itself to warrant its own lengthy blog post.
4. Set time aside to eat. You should try to budget for AT LEAST 20-minute meals. Don’t just eat whenever, make appointments with yourself and fuel your body and mind.
You don’t have to do all of these at once, try one or two and see what you learn. Eating slow is likely to not come natural to you, so understand these things take practice. But, once this becomes a habit, I can personally guarantee you that it will improve your life quality. Mindful eating is a positive experience for you and everyone around you whom you should be enjoying your time with. And you know, improved fat loss isn’t a bad bonus!