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Irene Rubaum-Keller

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Why Are You Eating So Fast?

Posted: 03/27/2013 3:12 pm

I eat fast. I admit it. There is anxiety associated with eating if you have a weight problem and sometimes you just want to get the eating over with so you can reduce that anxiety. It's stress, and guilt, and fear all rolled into one strange feeling when sitting down, or in many cases, standing up to eat. It's almost like -- if I eat it quickly, it doesn't count.

I grew up with four younger brothers and so meal times were often frenzied. With five of us and me being the only girl, my brothers would often be done before me and start eyeing my plate. "Are you going to eat that?" I get the same feeling at restaurants when the busboy starts coming around again and again to see if I'm done yet. It makes me want to protect my plate and eat faster so I can finally say, "Yes, I'm done."

Several studies have shown that eating fast causes us to take in more calories and feel less satisfied after eating than eating slowly.

In this small study using ice cream, researchers measured the amount consumed in five minutes vs. 30 minutes and also measured the gut hormones that tell the brain we are full and satisfied. The sensors that tell us we are full come from the intestines and not the stomach. This is important to know and why it takes up to 20 minutes for your brain to understand that you are full and satisfied. It's an odd design nature. You will feel pressure from your stomach when it's full and/or too full, but that is different from feeling sated. The study found that eating more slowly caused the partcipants to eat less and feel more satisfied after eating.

This study also found that eating slowly led to taking in less calories and feeling more satisfied after eating. They used 30 healthy women.

In the largest study I could find, from Japan, they used over 3,000 people and they also found that eating quickly correlated with taking in more calories and higher rates of obesity.

So why are we rushing?

There are the feelings of guilt and anxiety surrounding eating -- which I talked about -- and there is also our fast-food, fast-moving culture. It's different in other countries. In France, for example, they take time with their meals. They savor their food. They eat smaller portions and they are thinner than Americans in general. They also walk a lot.

We eat at our desks, drive or take public transportation everywhere and then stop at the drive-through on the way home and eat that in the car before we even get home. Or eat in front of the TV or computer and pay almost no attention to what, or how much, we are taking in.

So, how can we change?

It's not easy to change a habit like eating speed. It becomes ingrained very early on, however, it can be done.

I use hypnosis with my patients in my private practice. This seems to really help both with the anxiety around eating and with remembering your goal to be at a healthy weight.

You can use self-hypnosis, meditation, exercise, relaxing music, candlelight, etc. to create a feeling of calm around your meals.

If you are too hyper to do those things, you can make certain rules for yourself. For example, no eating standing up or in front of the refrigerator. No eating in the car. I have to put my fork down after each bite, etc. These small changes can add up to big weight loss over time. In fact, just the other day I was eating with this in mind. It was a nice piece of salmon and some fresh steamed spinach. Yummy. About halfway through, while eating slowly, I realized I was full. I hate to waste salmon, but this was already leftover from the night before and it wasn't going to be good later. So rather than eat more than my body needed, I gave it to my dog. She was thrilled, and I saved myself some calories.

The paradox for many of us with weight issues is that we think we really love food and love to eat, but if we really did, why don't we take the time to enjoy it? To pay attention? To savor each delicious bite?

Ask yourself those questions and let me know what answers you come up with.

Meanwhile, slow down and fully enjoy your food!

That's it for now. Good luck and let me know how you're doing.

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