January 31, 2010

Most of my clients live and work in Manhattan, where things seem to move at lightening speed, but when they sit down to eat a meal or snack, I ask them to take a deep breath and imagine themselves in a sloooooow oasis, where they can practice a three step approach at each meal: 1) take smaller nibbles 2) chew thoroughly and 3) set the utensil down between every bite.

I know it isn't easy, and it may feel awkward at first, but when scientists at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston put this to the test, they found a big payoff. Fast eaters downed an average of 646 calories in 9 minutes compared to 579 calories in 29 minutes for slow eaters. Here's how they tested it:

Researchers asked the same group of women to eat two separate pasta meals. For the first, they were given a large spoon and were told to eat as quickly as possible. On a separate occasion, they ate the same exact meal, but with a smaller spoon, which they set down between tastes. They were also asked to consciously take small bites and chew each one 15 to 20 times. The slow group reported feeling more full and satisfied, both at the end of the meal and an hour later, despite taking in fewer calories.

A 70 calorie difference per meal may not sound like much, but four times a day that adds up to 280 calories. That's enough to help a sedentary person lose nearly 30 pounds over a year's time, without making any other changes. To burn 280 calories a day, a 150 pound person would have to walk at a fast pace for about 45 minutes, do an hour of water aerobics, or an hour and a half of Hatha yoga.

A lot of my clients find themselves gobbling down meals while distracted by email, TV, or just thinking about what needs to get done next. Slowing it down even a bit can help you intuitively eat less, enjoy and savor your meals more and better tune into your body, so you can stop when you feel like you've met your needs.

If you give it a try, please let me know how it goes. It could be a major key to changing your relationship with food and overcoming a weight loss plateau!

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