When's the last time you ate? This morning? Maybe lunch? Perhaps you're eating right now. In any case, I want you to think about how fast you were eating, and how fast you tend to eat in general. Do you shovel food down your throat, inhaling your meals and demolishing snacks? Or do you take in food slowly, to the chagrin of your friends and family? Today let's talk about why the former might not be such a good thing for your health, and why you also might want to err on the side of the latter.
Let me first say that I used to eat as quickly as possible. I went through a phase where I measured my worth based on how rapidly I could consume a Chipotle burrito. I really did take pride in my eating speed. Why? I honestly have no idea. I guess I thought it was... cool? It's weird. Back then I didn't realize that eating quickly could possibly be damaging to my health, and most people still don't know that eating too quickly can have detrimental health effects. In fact, there have been at least two studies that indicate that eating quickly can lead to insulin resistance and even obesity.
That's right - something as innocuous as your rate of eating can have serious health consequences. It might seem like eating speed is inconsequential, but think about this: we pay attention to how much we eat (or at least we should), so why not how quickly we eat? After all, eating too quickly can outpace our bodies' natural satiety response to food intake. As we eat, our digestive system and fat cells release a hormone called leptin, which is supposed to make us feel full. However, if you eat too quickly, you can actually get to a point where you're eating faster than your brain is receiving the leptin signal, meaning that you won't feel full until after you've eaten an insane number of calories. Ever notice how you might feel hungry enough to eat a horse when entering a restaurant, but after a cup of soup you're having second thoughts when you see your entree arriving 15 minutes later? That's because you've given your brain time to receive the satiety signal, which is something that, again, people are often able to ignore because they're eating so quickly. Ignore this signal consistently, and you're a hop, skip, and a jump away from becoming overweight and insulin resistant.
If you're not aware, insulin resistance is a precursor to Type 2 Diabetes. This should scare you. We pretty much want to avoid insulin resistance whenever possible. Now, unfortunately for those of us who tend to eat quickly, two eating studies from Japan offer evidence that consistently eating quickly can lead to both obesity and insulin resistance. Basically, consistently eating too quickly can not only make you gain more weight than eating slowly, but it can also give you a nudge toward Type 2 Diabetes. It's scary stuff, but luckily eating speed is an incredibly simple risk factor to control. It comes down to mindfulness and awareness.
Here are the two easiest mindfulness tips to follow to slow down your eating:
Sounds like common sense, right? Far from it. Once you start paying attention to how much you actually chew your food, you'll realize how much of the food in your mouth is swallowed prematurely. Some people like to put an exact number on the amount of times you chew, but nobody has time for that. Instead, just pay attention to the food in your mouth and make sure you've chewed it all before swallowing. Nothing should be swallowed whole. Again, this might sound inane but just give it a try and you'll be surprised at how much food you might not be chewing. On a side note, chewing is the first step in digestion (mechanical digestion), so if you have a history of digestive issues this is also something to take a look at - swallowing unchewed food makes it that much harder for the rest of your digestive system to deal with it.
This is another thing that happens way too often without people realizing. Taking another bite with food still in your mouth is a one-way ticket to overeating. If you're onto your next bite without having finished your previous one, that tells me you're mindlessly eating, which is never a good thing, and almost always leads to over-consuming calories before actually feeling full. Don't do it. Resist the urge and call upon your self control. Eating isn't a sprint.
It's intriguingly rewarding - at least for me, anyway - to eat a meal slowly. Instead of each meal being a whirlwind of activity and a gnashing of teeth, I can exercise restraint and enjoy my food more by consuming it more mindfully. Now, I realize there are times when you need to eat quickly - perhaps you're on a short lunch break or what have you. These things will happen too, but we want to make that the exception, not the rule. If we're consistently eating at a reasonable pace, we can reduce the risk for weight gain and insulin resistance.
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