The other day my wife and I were at a family get together. Lots of friends, family and fun to be sure —oh, and one other thing, FOOD! Lots and lots of food. Burgers, dogs, sausages and enough salads to float a battleship, a delectable smorgasbord to be sure.
While we were there, people mentioned to us how they always end up stuffing themselves at get togethers like this. They aren’t alone. I’ve been there, and no doubt most of you have, too. You grab a plate go up to a buffet style display of food and proceed to overflow it beyond capacity with goodies. Then, you take it back to the picnic table and devour it within minutes. Next thing you know, you’re back in the buffet line for “Round 2,” and just a few short minutes later, that too is gone. Soon thereafter, you’ve eaten so much you can hardly move, and feel like you’re going to pass out from the overload.
So what can you do?
There are tons of tricks you can use to help prevent the gorging, but here’s one tip I have found which helps me to keep things under control. It’s very easy to do and has been proven to work in several studies. I can tell you from personal experience it was one of the difference makers when I lost more than 100 pounds. I figured it out one day while I was eating with a family member who was rail thin. While I was eating my second and third helpings of things, she hadn’t even finished half her plate. She would set her fork down after each bite and took her time eating. And, it wasn’t just this one time, but every time we ate together. I noticed it would take her 30 or even 40 minutes to eat, and usually she didn’t even finish her meal. Yet, she enjoyed her food more and never once felt bloated. I said “a-ha! She’s on to something.” So, I adopted her rule of eating and called it “The 20-minute Rule.”
What is it?
Simply put, you can put whatever you want on your plate. Fill it to the max. But, take your time and enjoy it. The goal is to take 20 minutes to eat it all. Then, once you are done, you CANNOT go back for seconds until 20 minutes after you have FINISHED your plate.
Why does this work?
Well, studies show that most of us eat fast… VERY fast. One study found the average American spent 23 minutes a day eating. That’s not 23 minutes per meal, but 23 minutes in TOTAL. Think about that for a second. If you eat four or five times a day, then you spend less than five minutes actually eating each meal.
What is the effect of eating that fast? Research has found that it takes about 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to signal the rest of your body (especially your stomach) that it’s full. When you devour everything in sight within a few, short minutes you don’t give your body the time it needs to register that it is full. Next thing you know, you’ve eaten two or three plates of food. Only afterwards does your brain let you know you’ve stuffed yourself. So much so, you can’t even get up from the table.
By implementing the 20-minute rule, I found not only did I eat less, but I also didn’t feel bloated and stuffed after I ate. And, funny thing was, I found that I stopped clearing my plate — those poor starving children in China be damned.
It’s a rule I apply every time I sit down to eat. Was it easy to implement? No. Honestly, I still struggle with it. In fact, I found it so hard at first, I had to start setting a timer to prevent myself from rushing through my meal and heading back for seconds. But, over time I learned how to manage it; and, as I did I found the pounds started dropping off.
By slowing down how quickly you eat and waiting 20 minutes before going back for seconds, it has been shown you will eat less and learn to recognize the signs of satiety again. Signals that many of us have lost because we eat too quickly.
So, if you tend to eat your meals faster than superman can fly, only to go back for more, give the 20-minute rule a try. I’m betting you will find yourself eating less and rediscovering the simple joy of tasting your food, instead of inhaling it.
Dan Romand is co-owner and operator of Full Circle Fitness-NY in Albany and Saratoga Springs, where he is a certified personal trainer. You can often read his personal health and fitness article in TheSpot518 and on our website www.thespot518.com.