Slow Down and Eat Less

Here is an excerpt from the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, Ph.D.

We stop eating when our stomach is full, right? Wrong. Scientist don’t know exactly what makes us feel full. It seems to be a combination of things, how much we chew, how much we taste, how much we swallow, how much we think about the food and how long we have been eating.

What does seem to be the case is that the faster we wolf down our food, the more we eat because this combination of cues doesn’t get the chance to tell us we’re no longer hungry. Many research studies show that it takes up to 20 minutes for our body and brain to signal satiation, so that we realize we are full. Here’s the problem. We Americans start, finish and clear the table for many of our meals in less than 20 minutes. Our meals are remarkably short. Take lunch, for example. Drs. Rick Bell and Patti Pliner found that if we’re eating lunch alone, we spend only 11 minutes eating  if we’re at a fastfood resturant, 13 minutes at a workplace cafeteria, and 28 minutes at a moderately priced restaurant. If we’re eating with three other people, we tend to eat about twice as long, but that’s still a speedy lunch.

Most of us actually decide how much to eat before we put any food into our mouths. We eyeball how much we think we want, dish it out, and then eat until it’s gone. That is, after we say, “I want two scoops of ice cream” or “half a bowl of soup,” we rely on that visual cue—the empty ice cream bowl or the half-empty soup bowl—to tell us we’re through.

Think of a jogger. If she decides to jog on a treadmill until she’s tired, she constantly has to ask herself, “Am I tired yet, am I tired yet, am I tired yet?” But if she says, “I’m going to jog down to the school and back,” she doesn’t have to constantly monitor how tired she is. She sets the target, and jogs until she’s done.

Our stomach has three settings:

  1. Starving
  2. I’m Full but I can eat more
  3. I’m Stuffed

We need to find a happy medium between the hunger headache and the stuffed sow feeling we get when we’ve eaten way too much food. Don’t eat until the bowl is empty, listen to your body and stop when you are full and satisfied. We need to be better stewards of our bodies and really listen to it. One of the first things I started doing was to really chew my food, I mean really chew it. Not one to five chews then swallow; really savor the flavor, think about what you’re eating and not what you need to do next. Also, time yourself and see how fast you finish a meal. I guarantee you will be quite surprised.

Bon appétit!


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