Of course, it does matter what kinds of foods we’re eating on a daily basis. Although, it’s just as important to talk about HOW to eat. In many traditional diets, how people eat is just as important as the cuisine itself.
There was a study published in BMJ Open that came to a similar conclusion.
Japanese researchers studied almost 60,000 participants and found that the faster someone eats, the more likely it is that they will be overweight.
In fact, those that ate the fastest were 42 percent more likely to be obese than those who ate at a “normal” speed.
They also found that people who ate within two hours of going to sleep and snacked frequently were at greater risk for obesity. This was an observational study, so we can’t say that it’s definitive, but it does make sense.
The faster we eat, the less time there is for our stomach to send signals of satiety to our brain, and the greater the chance that we’ll keep eating even when we’ve already met our caloric needs.
With this in mind, here are a few tips for eating more mindfully:
- Chew each bite of food thoroughly before swallowing. You don’t have to aim for some arbitrary number (i.e., chew 47 times before swallowing). Just make sure the food is chewed longer than you normally would.
- Read or use technology while eating, if you’re alone. This actually might sound counterproductive, but reading or checking/writing emails during a lunch break provides plenty of time in between bites to keep us occupied. We’re less inclined to shovel food down our throat if we’re simultaneously involved with something else.
- Spend some time eating with others. (Same reasons as above.)
- Set a timer for 20 minutes and do not finish until time is up.
- Use the utensils in your non-dominant hand. This is a great, automatic way to increase the time it takes to consume a meal.
- Take 6-10 deep breathes before you start eating, with occasional pauses during the meal for a deep breath. (Read below for a deeper dive about why this is important.)
Deep Dive: Sympathetic vs Parasympathetic Response
We have two different nervous systems: sympathetic and parasympathetic.
The sympathetic nervous system is known for its fight or flight stress response. When this system is activated (through stress) our digestive system shuts down. Why? Because thousands of years ago when a lion was chasing us, the last thing our body was doing in that moment is digesting the berries that were eaten an hour ago. All our metabolic energy wants to go towards survival. So in the case of the lion predator, all our bodily resources will be going toward getting us to safety quickly.
When we shift into parasympathetic nervous system dominance (a relaxation state), healthy digestion, assimilation and calorie-burning capacity is activated. (We do burn calories more vigorously in the hour during exercise, but we burn the bulk of our calories in the other 23 hours of the day.)
To recap: Eat slower.
- Chew each bite of food thoroughly before swallowing.
- Do something productive while eating, if you’re alone.
- Spend some time eating with others.
- Take at least 20 minuets to finish the meal.
- Use the utensils in your non-dominant hand.
- Take 6-10 deep breathes before you start eating, with occasional pauses during the meal for a deep breath.
Choose one or two of these actions to implement today.