Ask the Diet Doctor: The Ideal Eating Pace

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Q: I know it is better to eat slowly, but is there such a thing as eating too slowly?

A: It’s probably possible to eat too slowly, but the length of time that it would take to make a very leisure meal slightly detrimental would be in excess of two hours, and this is not a time commitment that most people are willing to make to a meal.

The bigger problem that most people have is eating too fast. There is an ever-growing trend for eating more meals outside of the home, and most of these meals are on the run where eating slowly is a liability.

Decelerating your bite rate is a simple fix for improving your eating. Mindful eating is currently a very popular topic in nutrition and is characterized by slow, deliberate eating in which you take the time and focus to experience each bite of your meal. Practicing eating in this fashion eliminates the sometimes all-too-familiar experience of eating so fast that you don’t remember how much you ate or what it even tasted like—a surefire recipe for overconsuming calories. In fact, a study just published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics found that healthy-weight adults ate 88 fewer calories and felt fuller an hour later when pacing themselves. [Tweet this fact!] Mindful eating or even just eating slower has another little-known benefit: It optimizes your fat-loss hormones for digestion.

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The hormone insulin is best known for being released in response to increases in your blood sugar. The blood sugar game is all about control: Too high is bad for you, but too low is also bad for you. Eating slowly helps your body win this blood sugar control game.

Research shows that a little bit of insulin is actually pre-released while you are chewing. By eating your food slowly, you give your body a chance to pre-release that insulin, which will provide some preemptive blood sugar control, helping to ensure that you can keep your blood sugar in the range your body wants.

A little known fact about insulin is that it is also a satiety hormone, in that insulin signals your body that you have had enough and are full. Insulin will work in this fashion when you eat an appropriate amount of food. When you eat an excessive amount of food, your blood sugar rises too high too quickly and your body releases too much insulin, causing you to feel lousy—and ravenously hungry—due to too-low blood sugar.

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People know that it is better to eat slower, but most don’t fully grasp the expansive true benefits of this habit. Eating slowly is your secret weapon for consuming less, enjoying your food more, and creating the optimal digestive hormonal environment. [Tweet this tip!] Don’t take two hours to dine, but take at least 10 to 20 minutes and enjoy every bite.

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