Eating too fast is making your waistline expand, suggest two new studies presented at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society.
Men who consider themselves fast eaters have significantly higher body mass indexes (BMIs) than slower eaters, one study found. Men also eat faster than women, downing 80 calories a minute compared to just 52 for the fairer sex.
Researchers also found a connection between periods of emotional turmoil and faster eating, says University of Rhode Island professor Kathleen Melanson. When you are emotional, you pay less attention to what you are eating than you would normally. You desire the satisfaction of tasting food, which may drive you to eat fast, Melanson explains.
Eating fast doesn’t allow the nerve endings in your stomach—called stretch receptors—time to recognize when the stomach is full. You then overeat, leading to weight gain, researchers say.
So what can you do to keep yourself from shoveling down food?
• Relax before you eat. Being stressed will make you feel like you need to eat quicker, said Melanson. One solution: Remember a vacation or time when you felt particularly relaxed. This tricks your mind into remembering the sounds, tastes, and feelings of being de-stressed.
• Use smaller utensils, especially smaller spoons or chopsticks. Those who do consume 70 less calories per meal, according to a University of Rhode Island at Kingston study. (Fight your food cravings by learning how to Stick To Your Diet at Every Meal.)
• Savor the first three bites. When you pay attention and analyze the texture and the taste of food, you trick your mind into believing your stomach is fuller, says Jeffrey Greeson, a health psychologist at Duke Integrative Medicine.
• Place your utensil in your non-dominant hand (if you are right-handed put it in your left, and vice versa). You will be more deliberate with each bite, making it easier to enjoy your food.
• Sip water between bites. You will stay hydrated, keeping you from confusing dehydration with hunger and slowing the bites you take.
• Talk to others at the dinner table. By expanding the conversation, you take longer between bites. Researchers at Flinders University found stimulating your mind keeps you from overindulging. (Keep your mind strong, boost your morale, and slay overeating with these 27 Ways to Power Up Your Brain.)
• Add spice or hot sauce. Spice signals receptors in the brain and wakes it up to the fact that you are eating, said Greeson. It will also make you pay attention to flavor and drink more water.
• Avoid soda and other sweet drinks made with high-fructose corn syrup. A University of California at San Francisco study found that the corn syrup blocks a key hormone that tells us when we are full.
• Try black tea. A study in the Journal of American College of Nutrition found that black tea decreases blood sugar levels by 10 percent for 2 1/2 hours so you’ll feel fuller faster and avoid hunger later on.