5 Tips To Slow Down Your Eating

Kathy having fun and eatingWe often focus on what we eat, and even when we eat – but it’s also worth exploring the effects of how quickly we eat. A few years ago there was interesting Japanese study at Osaka University that monitored the eating speed of over 3,000 volunteers. The verdict: Those who ate slowly were three times less likely to be overweight than their fast-eating counterparts. When we’re hungry, it’s easy to scarf down our meals in the blink of an eye – so try following these simple tips on slowing down your eating speed:

  1. Count it out. A recent Wall Street Journal on fitness gadgets caught my eye. It covered everything from an arm patch that counts calorie burn to a finger clip that measures blood oxygen level. But perhaps the most interesting gadget was called the “HAPIfork.” This high-tech fork gauges how quickly you’re eating, monitoring forkfuls per minute and vibrating when you need to slow down. At $99, this little invention might be one of the most expensive pieces of flatware you’ll ever buy – so if you’re not interested in making that investment, try counting your bites. If you normally chew a bite of chicken four or five times before swallowing, try extending that to ten or fifteen bites. Not only will this help improve your digestion, but eating slowly helps your brain receive the “satisfied” signal more efficiently. And getting that message to your brain in a timely manner makes it much easier to put that fork down.
  2. Make it a ritual. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to try out quite a few health spas. (It’s not just an indulgent getaway – it’s my job!) One of my favorite tips I’ve learned in their healthy eating workshops is a very doable no-brainer: Make every meal or snack an event. For dinners, don’t just set the table – set the mood! Get some warm lighting going, light a candle, and turn on some nice music. And when you’re snacking, don’t just grab the almonds and eat them out of the bag while you lean on the counter. Take out a small bowl and have a seat so you can enjoy your snack properly.
  3. Give thanks. Regardless of your own personal belief system, there’s something so great about the tradition of saying a prayer before a meal. Giving thanks (whatever that means to you), and taking a moment to experience gratitude for the food you have, can really put things into perspective and help you slow down your eating speed. Sure, if you’re having a lunch meeting in a busy restaurant, you might not want to make a scene with a loud expression of gratitude – but even a few breaths before you start can really help you create a shift in the entire eating experience.
  4. Be a conversationalist. I’ve often said that one of the keys to exercising regularly is finding a buddy – not only does it help keep you motivated, but working out with a loved one gives you time to catch up and bond. And the same goes for healthy eating. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a meal with a close friend or family member. Of course it’s fun to experience delicious food together, but remember that it’s the connection and the conversation that counts. Of course, the more you talk, the less you eat. But even if you’re not a big talker, be sure to put your fork down from time to time so that you can really listen and be present. And if you’re lucky, maybe your dinner companions will share a bite of what they’re eating.
  5. Savor the moment. If you love any of the popular cooking competition shows like I do, you may notice that many of the people who love food the most – the ones you’d assume would be most prone to over-sampling and overeating – are often at a very healthy bodyweight. That’s because – even if they’re preparing the richest rack of lamb or the creamiest crème brulee – they tend to focus on quality rather than quantity. Foodies often care too much about the rainbow of flavors, the subtle spices, and the overall art of eating to waste it by gobbling things up too quickly. So even if you’re not ready to compete on Top Chef, try savoring every bite you take. Try to identify specific herbs, specific ingredients, during the process. And be sure to break up your momentum by washing down bites with something delicious to drink – whether it’s a fine wine, sparkling water, or a soothing cup of chamomile.
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