THE DETAILS: Researchers from Athens University Medical College in Greece and Hammersmith Hospital at Imperial College in London recruited 17 healthy adult men and asked them to eat a generous portion of ice cream in two ways: 1) in two servings over the course of 5 minutes, and 2) in multiple small servings over 30 minutes. While the subjects did tend to feel fuller after the 30-minute meal, the difference in perception wasn’t dramatic, and there was, in fact, no difference in the subjects’ hunger ratings at various points during and after eating. When they ate more slowly, however, they were found to have higher blood levels of two hormones released from the digestive tract that signal “fullness” to the brain, curbing appetite and, therefore, caloric intake.
WHAT IT MEANS: Inhaling a meal at breakneck speed makes it harder for your appetite to keep up, while slow eating is likely to make you feel food sooner—and eat less. “Our study demonstrates that eating the same meal over 30 minutes instead of five leads favors earlier satiety,” say the study authors, who also point out that the warning many of us were given as children not to wolf down our food was, in fact, physiologically as well as parentally sound. Slower eating also promotes better digestion, and studies show that families who take time to eat relaxed meals together enjoy better relationships with each other. Add that to whatever benefit slow eating gives to your waistline, and you've got good reason to take your time at the table.
Here’s how to slow down your consumption—and maybe your caloric intake, too:
• Chew thoroughly. Take small bites and deliberately savor the texture, temperature, and taste of each food on your plate, suggests Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and a weight-control expert in New York City. Asking yourself questions like, “Is it crunchy, smooth, chewy, hot, cold?" can help enhance your eating experience and get you to stop and smell the aromas.
• Give your utensils a break. Make it a habit to put down your fork or spoon after every bite, and don’t pick it back up again until after you’ve swallowed, and your mouth is free of food, says Taub-Dix.
• Nosh with friends and family. Sit around a table when you eat, so that you’re facing each other. And turn off the TV—a distraction that can prevent you from noting how quickly you’re eating—so you can actively converse, cleverly occupying your mouth with something other than food. You’ll connect more and consume less.
• Stick with it. Still having a tough time slowing down? Replace your fork with chopsticks to force a slowdown, until you become accustomed to eating at a more leisurely pace.