Slow Down to Slim Down, Re-energize and Focus Well!

 By: J.J. Virgin

Okay, I admit it, I am a speed eater. I got into the habit back when I was a trainer racing between clients and I still struggle with it today while racing between conference calls, meetings and Mom duties.

If you are running a business I bet you can relate!  One of the things that I teach my clients to do is take time to mindfully (ie not while zoning out in front of the tv) eat a balanced meal of clean lean protein, healthy fats, loads of non starchy veggies and a small amount of a low glycemic, slow response carb every 4-6 hours.  

A recent article in the Washington Post shared 7 secrets of highly obese people.  What they revealed is that obese people start eating sooner, consume greater amounts of food and eat faster than their slim counterparts (oh yeah, and they skip breakfast too!).  In our world of supersizing this is not good news. 

When we consume our meals too quickly, the feeling of fullness and satiety are delayed, causing us to overeat.  Inhaling food makes it tough for our digestive systems to function properly, resulting in heartburn and indigestion.  Frenzied feeding causes the gut to contract, sends us running to the bathroom and prevents necessary nutrients from being absorbed by your body.  Consequently, weak digestion leads to a weak immune system… leaving you susceptible to illness.  The interplay of proper nutrient ingestion, digestion and absorption to your overall health is quite spectacular!

How do you know when you are eating too fast?  

Well, if you don't fully swallow each bite before taking the next one, that's a red flag!  Believe it or not, the whole digestion process starts in your mouth in the chewing phase.  Chewing well grinds food into small bits, allowing it to be more easily swallowed.  Well-chewed bits of food are more easily coated with digestive juices once in the stomach. Chewing well also allows the molecules of nutrients from the chewed food to be more quickly released and assimilated.  Keeping a food in the mouth longer allows the food's flavors to be recognized by the tongue. When the tongue recognizes the flavor it sends a message to the brain, which in turn sends messages to the digestive system resulting in the release of the digestive juices needed for that food. 

 Bottom line:  We should be chewing at least 20-25 times per forkful!

Follow these 9 strategies to shift gears from chowing down to slowing down during mealtimes:

·       Never "dashboard" dine.  Like laws to prevent folks from using cell phones while driving, the nation should enact new regulations to prevent us from eating in our cars!  

·       Eat meals at a regularly appointed time at your designated eating area-i.e., the dining room or kitchen table.  Last time I checked, beds and sofas were developed for other purposes.

·       Focus on your food – be mindful not mindless, and tasteful vs. being tasteless!

·       Use chopsticks – I dare you to eat quickly with these suckers.

·       Shrink your plate to shrink your belly – Remember that the average person's stomach holds about 1 quart of food.  Look at your plate, and make sure the food quantity matches up.

·       Load up on non-starchy veggies for volume – Your body and your health will thank you for getting in 5-10 servings a day!

·       Put your fork (or chopsticks) DOWN between bites – perhaps spend those seconds chewing per the above guidelines?

·       Shrink your bites and increase your chewing.

·       Remove the food triggers – do you have a candy dish on your coffee table?  Get rid of it!  Don't leave candy or sweets in view, in fact get all the enemies out of the house!

Taking time out to eat your 3 balanced meals delay will pay off in spades in terms of easier weight management, better sustained energy, improved mental focus and mood and improved stress resilience.  So make time for your meals! 

 2010 JJ Virgin & Associates, Inc. JJ Virgin, PhD, CNS is a nutrition and fitness expert, author, public speaker and media personality. She is the author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy and the co-star of TLC's Freaky Eaters. You can download her Top Ten Tips to Get Slim and Sexy Fast at