One of the most frequently encountered diet or healthy-eating tips is to eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for you to realize how full you are, so eating slowly and waiting a bit before going for a second—or third—helping can make it easier to stop when you’re done, rather than after. Researchers are starting to learn more about why eating slowly can be an important part of maintaining a healthy weight.
Until recently, scientists thought that slower eating meant fewer calories. One study claimed that merely eating more slowly, without any other deliberate changes to diet, could result in weight loss of 20 pounds in a year. However, these studies were limited, not taking into account how being overweight or obese might affect the results. Indeed, the latest studies found that overweight people who eat slowly experience only two-thirds the reduction in calories of normal-weight people.
However, this doesn’t mean slower eating doesn’t have an effect on overweight people. In the study, eating slowly resulted in lower levels of hunger across the board, regardless of the subject’s weight. That means that, while the overweight subjects in the study were consuming almost as many calories at meals eaten slowly as they were at meals eaten more quickly, they still remained satisfied longer, meaning they were eating less overall.
Another factor contributing to less food consumption is that people eating slowly tended to drink more water—fully a third more, according to researchers. In fact, overweight test subjects increased their water consumption by more than normal weight subjects. Drinking more water in general is a good strategy to fight hunger without packing on the pounds, and eating more slowly makes drinking water an easier habit to get into.
Moreover, people have said that eating slowly means they enjoy their food more. By taking the time to savor what you eat, instead of rushing through it, you get a chance to really experience your meals, and you end up more satisfied not only physically but emotionally—you have a happier, less stressful, more mindful life, regardless of what you weigh.