A man named Joey Chestnut (nicknamed “Jaws”) is the number one speed eater in the world. According to Major League Eating, he once ate a record 74 hotdogs (with the buns) in 10 minutes at the national Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest on Coney Island. Over the years, he’s also made short work of pizza, pastrami, Philly cheesesteaks and Boysenberry pie. That’s all in a day’s work for Chestnut. He makes a lot of money speed-eating. But for the rest of us, wolfing down our food like a competitive eater just wins us pounds. Slow eating practices may be the answer.
In fact, a three yearlong study published in the Journal of Epidemiology found that fast eaters have a higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome than those who practice slow eating. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of health problems, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and excess abdominal fat that can be a forerunner to type 2 diabetes.
On the other hand, taking your time eating has major benefits. In a recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers looked at the eating habits of 60,000 people. They found that taking your time can decrease your risk of obesity. Even better, they discovered that the study subjects who put the brakes on their eating speed over the course of the study lost weight.
Here’s are some other scientific reasons why you should join the slow eating movement:
1. You’ll eat fewer calories.
According to Harvard Health, the gut and nervous system communicate via hormone signals. They explain that it can take “about 20 minutes for the brain to register satiety (fullness)”. If you eat too fast, you may end up overeating before your gut can tell your brain that it’s had enough.
The secret to slowing down your eating is to chew more. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island found that women who were told to eat quickly consumed 646 calories in nine minutes. When these same women were instructed to stop between bites and chew 15 to 20 times per bite, they reduced their calorie intake to just 579 calories in 29 minutes.
The number of chews per meal may be significant. A 2011 study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that optimum number of chews to significantly reduce calorie intake was 40. Chewing more may also be able to help you curb your appetite for some of your favorite foods. A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that slower chewing could even reduce the intake of yummy pizza by as much as 14.8%.
2. You’ll feel full and satisfied.
Slowing your pace can help you enjoy your food more, feeding what scientists call “hedonic hunger.” According to Live Science, this is the need to experience pleasure in eating. Humans are programmed to take pleasure in our food. It’s a throwback to a time when there wasn’t so much food readily available. When a tasty food presented itself—like a bush full of sweet and highly palatable berries—our tickled taste buds told us to eat more and more even if we weren’t starving or even hungry. Those were feast or famine times and starvation was always around the corner—desiring sweet things gave us a survival advantage.
Slow eating can help you pay more attention to the flavors, textures and enjoyment of a meal. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it’s also more likely to make you feel physical full than gobbling it in record time.
3. You won’t binge.
Mindful eating has been shown in several studies to help people not only lose weight but also control binge eating. According to Harvard Health, a government-sponsored study was done at Indiana State and Duke Universities. In this study, binge eaters practiced mindfulness techniques while eating. They found that the participants experienced increased enjoyment while eating and decreased struggle in controlling their consumption.
Harvard Health mentions several recommendations for mindful and slow eating, such as eating with your non-dominant hand, eating with chopsticks, setting a timer for 20 minutes, taking small bites and asking yourself if you’re really hungry prior to eating.
4. You’ll burn more calories.
Hey, chewing is exercise! A 2014 study in the journal Obesity found that chewing your food “until no lumps remain” increases the number of calories you burn. They found that participants burned about 10 extra calories per every 300-calorie meal when they ate slowly. You could potentially burn 1,000 calories or more a month, the researchers suggest.
5. You’re less likely to gain weight.
Slow eating can keep you from struggling with losing that “last five pounds” over and over again. In a study published in the journal Appetite, researchers at Fukuoka University in Japan tracked over 500 people for eight years and compared their weight change. Those who ate more quickly gained more weight (almost five pounds) than those who ate slowly.
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