It takes about 20 mins for our satiety mechanism to kick in. These are the signals that tell you that are you are no longer hungry. So, if you eat fast then you are going to consume a lot more calories before feeling full. I am sure most of us have experienced this:
- you are starving so prepare/buy a big meal
- you gobble it all up quick as you can
- 20 mins later you are lying around feeling sick for the rest of the evening and regretting what you have eaten
It doesn't take a genius to work out that eating and feeling like this(pains in your stomach, lethargic etc...) isn't good for your body. If you eat slowly and enjoy the meal, then you are giving your body a chance to process the food and you will receive the satiating signals when you start to feel full. A good goal is to aim for spending 15-20 mins eating each meal.
- turn off the TV
- eliminate distractions
- take smaller bites
- actually chew the food(rather than inhaling), and enjoy the meal
Most of us are used to feeling full or "stuffed" after a meal. A lot of people have it ingrained into them from a young age that "clearing your plate" is a good thing and got praised for this. But this isn't necessarily a good thing. After a meal you should still feel light and like you can get up and do something active. Not just loosening your pants. Eating until stuffed will make it difficult to get lean and can be detrimental to health and performance.
Rather than "eating until you are stuffed", we should be "eating until you are no longer hungry". This can be a little difficult to get used to especially if you are used to feeling stuffed after your meals all your life. Here are some tips on getting used to this and what it should feel like:
- Immediately after eating: you'll probably be still feel a tiny bit hungry. Wait it out before you go for more, this feeling will go away.
- One hour after finishing the meal: you should feel satisfied with no desire for eating.
- 2 hours after eating: you may start to feel a little hungry, but its not overwhelming.
- 3 hours after eating: you should feel like its time for your next meal, your hunger will be at about 7 or 8 out of ten depending on exercise activity levels etc…
- 4 hours after eating: you will be getting quite hungry at this stage
There have been many studies undertaken where they gave participants different sized portions of food and then asked them to give ratings on their satiety and hunger levels. In this sample study the participants were given different sized sandwiches on different days, and told to eat as much as they wanted. They then gave ratings of fullness after the meal. When they were given the bigger sandwich they consumed up to 23% more calories than when they were served the smaller sandwiches. But the ratings they gave for satiety and fullness varied very little. What does this tell you? Most people will eat whats on their plate rather than listen to their bodys signals for when they are no longer hungry.
Tips to avoid this
Don't pile too much food onto your plate to start with. Have a smallish portion at first. When you have finished that take a break and drink some water. Keep yourself busy, maybe complete some small task. Then, after 10 or 15 minutes, if you are still feeling hungry you can go back for some more. You will be surprised by how well this works for keeping the portion sizes under control.
I will go through more about portion sizes of particular food groups in other Healthy Eating Habits.
Some benefits of eating slowly and stopping at 80% full are:
- Consuming less calories
- enhanced appetite cues for the next meal
- improved digestion
- better performance with exercise
- better sleep if you’re eating before bed
Part 2: Eat your Fruit & Vegetables