Slow down and take time to eat your meals. You’ll enjoy your food more and you may even stay healthier.
A recent article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) shows that the odds of being overweight were three times greater for people who reported eating quickly and until full than for people who ate slowly and stopped eating before they felt stuffed.
More than 3,000 Japanese men and women aged 30-69 participated in the study. Participants completed a diet history questionnaire about their eating habits, their height and weight were measured, and their BMI (body mass index) was calculated.
The researchers reported that around half of the men and just over half of the women said they ate until they were full, and just under half (45.6%) of men and 36% of women said they ate quickly.
The odds of being overweight were about twice greater for the “ate until full” group, about twice greater for those who ate quickly, and more than triple for participants who both ate quickly and until full.
The authors conclude:
"Eating until full and eating quickly were significantly associated with overweight in Japanese men and women after adjustment for total energy intake and other potential confounding factors. The combination of the two eating behaviours had a supra-additive effect (additive interaction) on being overweight.”In an editorial, accompanying this article, Elizabeth Denney-Wilson and Karen Campbell write (emphasis is mine):
"Clinicians should encourage parents to adopt a child-led feeding strategy that acknowledges a child’s desire to stop eating that begins from birth. Reassure parents that well children don’t starve. Furthermore, because children find it difficult to regulate their energy intake, it is important to inform parents of the environmental stimuli that promote positive energy balance such as serving excessively large meals.
Discussion about replacing energy dense snack foods and drinks with core foods and water, appropriate serving sizes and body weight, what comprises a healthy diet, eating in non-distracting environments, eating together with an adult, and role modeling with slow and relaxed eating is likely to be useful.”
I find that eating in company really slows down my eating, and I tend to be satisfied by less food when I’m in good company, eating leisurely, and the meal is divided to several small courses. It gives time for satiety to kick in, as satiety signals need time to develop and communicate with the brain; it’s only then that the brain activates the satiety response that makes us stop eating
Most adults are ineffective at regulating energy intake, and there’s no built-in calorie counter in our body to stop us from overeating. We’re therefore overly influenced by external cues, such as an all-you-can-eat buffet, the size of a plate and the portion we’re served and “super sized” options that provide good economic value.
But babies and young kids start off with a healthier ability to regulate how much they eat. A healthy baby will stop drinking milk when satiated—there’s nothing you can do that can change its mind—and most young kids will push away the plate once they aren’t hungry.
Unfortunately, many parents encourage their kids to eat a little more, finish what’s in the plate, and “take just one more bite,” while what we should really do is appreciate and respect the kids’ natural instinct to eat just the right amount. Eating until full is actually an uncomfortable feeling the very young avoid, and we should all learn from them, not corrupt them into our unhealthy habit of eating too much.
There’s also something especially “fast” and stuffable about highly processed foods and fast food. The foods are snackable, packaged and formulated so that you can eat them while doing something else, often without a table or utensils. Drinks are designed to be chugable--gulped down in seconds. One can hardly imagine dining on these foods in a leisurely way.
I personally suspect that there’s also something about fast food that leaves people chronically unsatisfied from the culinary point of view. Perhaps fast food keeps us looking for more because the real joy of eating food that’s both good and good for you just wasn’t met.
So slow down and take the time to enjoy and celebrate food. It’s one of the pleasures we can indulge in daily. I believe that if you take the time to savor the taste of good food you’ll be less likely to overeat too.