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During a meal, your brain receives signals from your stomach and intestines that tell it when you're full. But it takes about 20 minutes for those signals to travel from your gut to your noggin. So if you're a speed eater, wolfing down bite after bite in rapid succession, you can pack in a lot of extra mouthfuls -- and calories -- during that lag time.
By slowing down, you give those natural signals of fullness a chance to register--so you can stop eating -- before you've polished off way more food than your body needs. Eating more slowly also allows you to savor the tastes, smells, and textures of your foods, which contribute to your sense of satisfaction.
If you're breaking speed records at meals, consider these techniques to slow down:
- Put your fork or spoon down after every bite. For many people, eating is a nonstop motion: The fork or spoon is racing from plate to mouth. The trick is to take a spoonful of food, put the spoon down beside your plate, chew, swallow, then pick up the spoon again. At first, this will feel awkward and tedious. But you'll be surprised how much sooner you'll feel full.
- Swallow what is in your mouth before preparing the next bite. Many people are busy loading up their utensils while their mouth teeth are still chomping away.
- If you're eating hand-held food -- such as pizza, sandwiches, bagels, or cookies -- take one bite, then put the rest of your food down while you chew.
- Relax before you start eating. If you're upset over a problem at work or if the kids are fighting, do some deep breathing or read the paper to settle down. The key is to calm down first and then start eating at a leisurely pace.
- Eat your meal in courses, rather than family style where all the foods are on the table at the same time.
- Time your meals with a watch or kitchen timer until you get used to the slower pace.
- Take a brief break for a minute once or twice during the meal. Talk, sip a beverage, or fold your hands in your lap.
- Play slow background music. Studies have shown that people eat more slowly when they listen to slow, soft music.
- When it's time to eat, do nothing but eat. Devote your full attention to the meal. Make it a habit to turn off the television and take the phone off the hook. If you're distracted by other activities, you may not notice how fast -- or how much -- you are eating.
- Use chopsticks for all cuisines. 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 allow the fatty sauces to fall through the cracks and stay on the plate where they belong.
- Sit down when you eat. This helps you relax and focus on eating. A lot of people simply don't count what they eat when they are standing up.
- Dine -- don't just "inhale" your food. For example, you can savor each delicious bite of tuna salad on a fresh bed of leafy greens, or you can "wolf" your tuna fish right out of the can. Why not make mealtime a pleasurable event?
- Finally, be creative, and develop your own tricks for slowing down your eating.
A good support group can help you succeed in just about any endeavor, and weight loss is no exception. Learn how to gather a good team around you in the next section.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.