As a dietitian who has been living and breathing the world of nutrition for decades, it’s no surprise that I have pretty good eating habits. Pretty excellent, in fact. I eat tons of veggies, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins. I don’t overeat (ok, that’s usually true). I rarely eat sugary or processed foods. But one habit I have never been able to break, with any regularity, is that I tend to eat rather quickly. I’ve counseled countless clients on this very subject, but have a difficult time following the rules myself. The only thing that seems to save me is that all my other habits are well established, in addition to the fact that I exercise regularly.
If you’re a fast eater, however, you should be aware of several health risks. Studies have revealed that people who eat quickly are at a higher risk for obesity as well as diabetes. The most recent diabetes study appeared in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, and involved 172 initially healthy Japanese men and women who were followed over 3 years. Participants were asked to report on several eating habits such as whether they were “fast eaters”, “snacked frequently”, “ate late at night”, “skipped meals”, or “ate out frequently.” By the end of the study, 39 people developed impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), meaning their blood sugar levels were intermittently higher than normal (classified as “pre-diabetic”). Two participants actually went on to develop diabetes. Somewhat surprising was the fact that the only eating habit significantly associated with rising blood sugars was fast eating.
In another landmark study, more than 3,000 Japanese men and women ages 30 to 39 filled out a questionnaire about their eating habits. Half the men and a little more than half the women said they ate until they were full. Slightly fewer than half of both men and women reported that they ate quickly. The findings took into account participants’ ages and activity levels.
It’s no myth that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is actually full. If you are a fast eater, just think about the excess calories you can take in during a 20-minute time period! This is especially dangerous when you sit down to eat and you’re ravenous.
With that in mind, use the following suggestions to help slow down your pace of eating. Hopefully these tips will help you enjoy your food more, and may help prevent overeating and unwanted weight gain. If you are already overweight, these suggestions may help you shave off a few pounds.
Based on this current research, you can be sure I am not giving up my goal to slow down my own eating pace. If nothing else, I know I’ll enjoy my food more. And not leave my eating partners in the dust.
Are you a fast eater? Do you have a weight or blood sugar problem? Have any of the above suggestions worked for you? Do you have any of your own tips to share?