Whether you’re looking to trim down before bikini season or pursuing longer-term health goals, a new study has uncovered a simple weight-loss fix to add to your overall health regimen: eat slower.
Recently published in BMJ Open, the study found that people with diabetes who eat slower are more likely to be at a healthy weight than their peers. Study participants who reported being fast eaters were more likely than their peers to have a BMI of 25 or higher. Faster eaters also had larger waistlines than slow eaters.
The study analyzed five years of health data from nearly 60,000 Japanese men and women diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It’s important to note that Asian populations can be medically considered overweight or obese at a lower BMI than other population groups, so the authors of this study defined obesity as a BMI of 25 or more. (The World Health Organization generally characterizes overweight individuals as having a BMI of at least 25 and obese individuals as having a BMI of 30 or higher.)
Savor Your Meals to Shed Inches
Compared to the fast-eating group as a whole, the slow-eating group had, on average, a waistline that was over two and a half inches, or six centimeters, smaller. The slow eaters also had an average BMI three points lower than their fast-eating peers, with a significantly lower proportion of obese individuals in their group.
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There are a few reasons why eating slowly is beneficial for overall health, especially for individuals who have type 2 diabetes or unhealthy weight. The authors cited research findings that associate eating quickly with insulin resistance, a risk factor for developing diabetes. Other research has connected fast eating with increases in BMI, perhaps because eating at this pace does not allow the body to properly signal satiety, a disconnect that can lead to overeating.
How We Eat, Not Just What We Eat
While this study didn’t control for calorie intake, it was able to pinpoint which common lifestyle factors the researchers tied to obesity. In addition to considering eating speed, researchers asked participants about habits like skipping breakfast, eating dinner too close to bedtime, after-dinner snacking, alcohol and tobacco consumption, and sleep adequacy. Of these factors, researchers determined that eating within two hours of bedtime, snacking after dinner, and frequent alcohol consumption were all associated with higher BMI.
Overall, these findings reveal that how we eat, and not merely what we eat, plays a significant role in whether we can achieve or maintain a healthy weight. For some people, merely making these lifestyle adjustments may lead to weight loss. For others, practicing healthy food consumption habits may be a weight loss tool that complements traditional weight loss measures like calorie counting and diet regimens.
Slowing It Down with Family
Unlike calorie counting, a key benefit of shifting eating habits is that these can be implemented upon the entire family, regardless of age.
It’s not always easy, for example, to get your child (or your spouse, for that matter) to trade out their favorite junk foods for fresh fruit. Junk foods are designed to taste good, be easily consumable, and are marketed heavily to the Latino community.
Furthermore, young children and even adolescents may not be able to grasp that eating “good” or “bad” foods doesn’t mean that they are good or bad people. Putting too much focus on food may set the stage for fat-shaming rather than establish healthy lifestyle practices at a critical age.
Getting your family members to eat more slowly, on the other hand, is a fix that doesn’t require them to “sacrifice” anything other than a bite of time (pun intended). And ideally, your loved ones will be spending this extra time with you, since you’ll have more opportunities to model healthy habits to them.