Eat Slowly — It Could Help You Lose Weight
Maybe you eat fast because you grew up in a household where meals were practically a competitor sport. Maybe you eat fast because you’re very busy and important. Or maybe you just eat fast because you’re a human labrador.
Whatever the reason, it’s likely you’ll lower your weight if you train yourself to eat slower.
That’s the outcome of a study in the journal BMJ Open, which scrutinised the health insurance data of nearly 60,000 Japanese people who were quizzed about their health and lifestyle habits over a six-year period.
One of those habits was eating speed, ranked on a scale of slow, medium to fast.
At the start of the study, more than half reported eating at a normal speed; a fraction at a slow speed; and the rest at a medium speed. The slow eaters had the lowest body mass indexes (BMIs) and waist circumferences — which indicates less visceral fat, the kind linked to disease.
At the end of the six years, the slowest eaters were the least likely to be rated obese as defined by their BMIs, while those who reduced their eating speed also reduced their weight (their BMIs dropped, and their waist circumferences shrank).
“A possible reason for this association is that fast eaters may continue to eat until they feel full despite having already consumed an adequate amount of calories,” wrote Kyushu University researchers Yumi Hurst and Haruhisa Fukuda.
“The combined effect of eating quickly and overeating may contribute to weight gain.”
They continue that “eating slowly may help to increase feelings of satiety before an excessive amount of food is ingested” — that is, it gives your body time to register that you’ve eaten something.
The data also pulled out two other habits that might increase the odds of obesity: eating dinner within two hours of going to sleep, and snacking after dinner.
The study is observational, meaning it only observes a link between eating habits and weight gain without directly proving one causes the other.
“Eat slowly” sounds simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s straightforward: Susan Jebb, an Oxford University professor of diet and population health, believes “the outstanding challenge” is figuring out ways to put the advice into practice.
Past studies have suggested you’ll eat slower (and potentially lose weight) if you favour hard foods over soft ones; count every bite; wait 30 seconds between bites; chew everything you eat 40 times; and by actioning other tedious-sounding tricks.
Jebb said that while there’s little definitive proof that slowing your eating speed has a direct impact on your weight, it’s unlikely to hurt.
“It may encourage a more reflective eating style and reduce the risk of overconsumption,’ said Jebb, who was not involved in the Kyushu study, in a comment to the Science Media Centre.