Think for a minute about how quickly you eat your breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Do you find yourself finishing your meals long before your family and friends finish theirs?
Do you ever put food into your mouth before you’ve finished chewing the previous bite?
Do you tend to squeeze in meals just before running off to an appointment or an event?
If any of the above sounds familiar, then you may be doing yourself tremendous harm by increasing your risk for type 2 diabetes, according to new research.
THE FAST-EATING DISEASE
Lithuanian researchers, including Lina Radzeviciene, MD, PhD, an endocrinologist and the lead author of the study, asked subjects to fill out a questionnaire about how quickly they ate compared with those around them (their choices were faster, the same and slower). And what they discovered is that participants who said that they ate “faster” were 2.5 times as likely to have type 2 diabetes as those who said that they ate “slower.”
Now that’s remarkable—it means that you can tell a lot about someone’s risk for getting type 2 diabetes just by how quickly that person eats!
Why might this be? There are two potential reasons—and they both have to do with overeating, which is easy to do when you eat fast, because it takes your body about 20 minutes to register fullness. Overeating signals the pancreas to produce more insulin, and an overproduction of insulin can lead to type 2 diabetes, said Dr. Radzeviciene. Overeating also makes you more likely to become obese—another risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Of course, it’s possible that you’ve been eating quickly for your whole life and you have yet to overeat, become obese and/or develop type 2 diabetes. Congrats—you’ve been getting away with it! Fast eating doesn’t guarantee that you’ll overeat, become obese and/or develop type 2 diabetes. But it does raise your risk. That means that the more often you do it, the more likely you’ll overeat and the more likely you’ll develop these problems—especially as you age, when your metabolism slows and you’re less apt to be very active and burn lots of calories. In other words (I’m sorry to tell you), just because you haven’t been negatively affected by fast eating yet doesn’t mean that you’ll be off the hook for life.
HOW TO SLOW DOWN
The news that fast eating is harmful was no surprise to Jan Chozen Bays, MD, a pediatrician, Zen teacher and author of Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food. But she said that there are simple ways to help yourself take your time while you eat. Here are her tips…
1. Have an appetizer. Instead of diving into an entrée on an empty stomach, tame your appetite first with a small, healthy appetizer, such as fresh celery slices with peanut butter or a spinach salad.
2. Control your portions. The more you love a food, the more critical it is to control your portions, because you’re likely to crave more. Take one serving, put it on your plate and then put the food back in the refrigerator, freezer or pantry—or buy preportioned containers of the food.
3. Eat more real food and less processed food. This tip isn’t just about nutrition—it’s also, literally, about how long it takes to chew different foods. Real, whole foods such as whole grains, legumes, meats and vegetables take longer to eat because your teeth have to start “processing” them from their natural states. Think about how long it takes you to eat, say, a bean salad versus the way you might scarf down macaroni and cheese—you get the idea.
4. Don’t multitask. Don’t read the paper, watch TV, text, drive or answer e-mails while eating. When you’re not paying attention to what’s on your plate or in your mouth, it’s much easier to gobble too much too quickly.
5. Take breaks. Put down your utensils (or your sandwich) between bites. As you chew your food slowly, savor the flavor. Then take a deep breath and count to 20. Next, take a sip of your beverage. Talk to the person next to you if you’re eating with a group.
6. Eat as a guest. You would never invite someone to your home so he or she could stand over the kitchen sink eating leftovers out of a storage container. So why should you eat that way? Sit down at a table, set out some nice plates, play soothing music…and you’ll be less likely to rush.