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Take Your Time – Eat Slowly

The typical day:

Wake up in the morning, race down the stairs, grab a coffee and run out the door with your piece of fruit or some breakfast on the go and eat on the commute to work. Busy day at work, so you grab a sandwich or your lunch you managed to prepare the night before, eating it at your desk while responding to emails, answering calls or eating it on the run between meetings.

Get home in the evening, pop the dinner on the plate and eat it off your lap while catching up on something you recorded on sky. All meals eaten in under 5 minutes.

The ‘perfect day’:

Wake up in the morning, stroll down the stairs, sit down and have your breakfast at the kitchen table, relaxing and potentially even enjoying the food that you’re eating. 20 or so minutes pass and after you have finished breakfast and had that mug of coffee, off you go to work. Lunchtime arrives, and you take your prepared lunch and get out of the office or at the very least away from the desk. The phone is left in the drawer and again you enjoy meal 2 away from the stress of the work environment. After the commute home, you sit down to dinner that you either prepped at the weekend or cooked fresh that evening. Eating at a leisurely pace you don’t even manage to finish your entire plate because for some reason you are fuller than you normally are. The leftovers are popped in the fridge for a snack or to use for lunch tomorrow.

Which day is better? The second day. Which is more likely? The ‘typical day’.

A typical question I get asked is “so what difference does it even make how fast I eat my food? It’s all the same at the end of the day. It’s just fuel to keep me going”. Yes, it is fuel, but no it is not all the same. Eating slowly, acknowledging and even enjoying the food that you are eating has legitimate benefits. I don’t claim to be an expert on this but from my studies and research on the topic (as well as a little common sense!) it is well worth taking some time to enjoy your food.

Why?

1. You recognise when you are full.

Being able to sense satisfaction and knowing when to stop eating is the easiest form of portion control. It is a great way for people trying to reduce their daily calorie intake. Generally, it takes in the region of 20 minutes for the brain to send out those signals of fullness. For example, if you eat a 500-calorie meal in 5 minutes then you still think you are hungry, so you will go back for seconds and end up eating close to 700-800 calories. However, if you ate the 500-calorie meal in approx. 20 minutes, firstly you are more like to enjoy it as you have not inhaled it and secondly you will feel fuller by the end of it, therefore not going back for seconds. Slow and steady wins the race in this case!!

2. Improves digestion.

If we eat too fast, then we don’t give our stomach enough time to go through the steps our body needs to digest our food. It is not being processed properly and then along comes the indigestion and other GI problems. Chew the food, don’t inhale it!! If it is on your plate, it is your food, so it will still be there in 5, 10 or 15 minutes!

3. Portion control.

Simply, eating slowly means eating less. It doesn’t feel like you are restricting your intake and starving yourself on your new ‘diet’. All you have done is slowed down. For those of you that are quick eaters the drawbacks can include weight gain and disordered eating. Definitive research has also confirmed that fast eaters do tend to gain more weight over time than slow eaters.

So, how do I slow down?

  1. Put those utensils down between bites.
  2. Eat in an environment where you’re not surrounded by TV’s, iPads, phones, laptops etc
  3. Use smaller plates, knives and forks. Might look silly but it is a legitimate option to help you slow down (probably a bit easier if you are a parent to small children!)
  4. Simply chew the food for longer or for some of you, simply start chewing.

Clearly not everyone is able to have the perfect day scenario every day. Life gets in the way, routines are broken due to work and family commitments. However, a conscious effort to slow down as many meals as possible over the course of the week can create a better relationship with food. For anyone looking to control their intake or shed a few pounds, then slow down. It is better than feeling like you are depriving yourself of food. You might even grow to enjoy it.

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