In today's fast-paced world, many of us struggle with an overly packed schedule and little time to actually sit down to eat. As a result, busy people gulp and go, while others -- not necessarily under a time crunch -- have the habit of eating too fast. The result? They take in too many calories before they realize they've eaten enough. After all, it takes approximately 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to send out signals of fullness.
A recent study has revealed just how much weight gain can be expected based on eating speed. As researchers of this study expected, faster eating was associated with weight gain, but they were surprised at the actual amount of weight gain. The Department of Human Nutrition researchers recently analyzed the relationship between self-reported speed of eating and Body Mass Index in more than 1,500 middle-aged Australian women. Researchers determined that for every one-step increase in speed in a five-step scale, BMI increased by 2.8 percent, which equates to a weight gain of approximately four pounds.
It's true that eating slowly and taking smaller bites can be very difficult to do, especially when you are busy and famished. But you'll find it easier to slow the pace if you eat regular meals, and never allow more than four hours to pass between meals.
Still can't slow down the pace? Try a few tricks we've put together at "Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right! (RLGLER)" to help you put the brakes on speed eating and recognize a full belly. Here are tips to slow down eating:
RLGRER Tip #1: One of the major reasons for eating too fast is not chewing long enough. To slow down your eating, chew every bite a minimum of 10 times -- but shoot for 20.
RLGLER Tip #2: Put down the fork or spoon after each bite. This will slow down the automatic response of fork-to-mouth.
RLGLER Tip #3: Sip water regularly or in between bites. It forces you to put down the fork.
RLGLER Tip #4: Make meals a social time. If you eat with your family or friends, engage in conversation. Since you don't want to be impolite and talk with your mouth full, it will take longer for you to eat. Plus a good conversation and good meal make a great combination.
RLGLER Tip #5: Eat with chopsticks. They automatically slow down your rate of eating and the amount of food you're going to eat. If you're a pro with chopsticks, however, use them in the opposite hand. As an added bonus, chopsticks allows heavy sauces to fall through the cracks and stay on the plate where they belong.
RLGLER Tip #6: Don't wait to eat until you're ravenously hungry, or you'll eat quickly and consume too much. You'll find yourself inhaling food.
RLEGER Tip #7: Sit down to eat and use a plate. Those who stand are usually rushing through the meal to get on to other things.
RLGLER Tip #8: Eat foods that require some work: artichokes, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pomegranate, crab or lobster. You have to work for your food here and that will help slow you down.
We can actually learn a lot about eating slow from pistachios. A great concept developed by Dr. James Painter, Ph.D., R.D., called "The Pistachio Principle" is a basic idea of slowing down when eating and you will eat less. When eating a pistachio, you must first break open the shell to get the nut out. By having to break each shell open, the consumption rate is much slower. A study found that people who ate pistachios in shells ate 50 percent fewer calories than those with shells. The participants in the study also reported feeling satisfied even having eaten fewer pistachios.
Another study also found that when the empty pistachio shells were left on a table in plain site after eating, 35 percent fewer calories were eaten. This is kind of a mind trick on the brain. It looks as if you have eaten a large amount of nuts due to the shells but in reality, you have only eaten a few.
RLGLER Tip #9: Try the Bite Counter, a new wristwatch-shaped device that, like a pedometer, keeps count of a specific repetitive physical movement. The machine is described as having the ability to count bites taken with and without the use of a fork or spoon, such as eating an apple.
Be creative and develop your own tricks for slowing down your eating.
Follow Joanna Dolgoff, M.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joannadolgoffmd