Thursday, February 9, 2012

the eating slowly experiment

Background. I spend a large portion of my day thinking about and preparing my meals, ensuring they are both healthy and delicious. After all this contemplation and preparation, I sit down with my plate piled high and, more often then not, end up scarfing the goodness too quickly.

Not only is eating slowly important because it allows you to savor what you have worked so hard to prepare, but it also has health benefits. Studies have shown that eating slowly improves digestion, helps you avoid overeating, and allows you to appreciate food more. In fact, it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register satiety. Certainly, I have 20 minutes to spare for one of my favorite things in life...food.


Objective. To evaluate the effectiveness of 'eating slowly' methods.  

Methods. Implement one eating slowly method (see below) into my daily routine for 21 days*. After this time period has elapsed, report back on how successful the method was at slowing down my speedy eating ways. I will also remark on how easy each method was to implement in daily life. Are you worried about potential confounding? Then read the footnote at the end of this post. If you have no idea what I am talking about, feel free to ignore my nerdy ramble.

*21 days was chosen because this is the amount of time it takes to form a habit.

Eating Slowly Methods
  1. Use chop sticks or small utensils for eating
  2. Put fork down in between bites
  3. Pause and calm myself before eating
  4. Practice mindful eating (thinking carefully about flavors, textures, etc. while eating)
  5. Time 20 minutes and stretch out meals accordingly 

Do you also struggle with eating too quickly? I have designed this experiment so you can do it with me. At the beginning of each 21 day method testing session, I will upload a brief post to announce the method to be tested, how to do it, and the exact dates for implementation. After the study period has elapsed I will post a full summary of the method and I hope to either have others' feedback as comments on that post or incorporate your feedback (e-mail me as you go @ mylessseriouslife@gmail.com) directly in the post.

In the end, I hope to discover the best method (or combination of methods) to slow down my caveman-like eating ways with the goal of making my stomach happier and appreciating food even more.

Footnote: A note here (for my more academic-minded readers) about potential confounding. If this were a true scientific experiment I would need to carefully consider how one of these methods would then impact the results of the following method. For example, after 3 weeks of putting my fork down between bites I may (and hope to) automatically do this when I begin the next method. And, clearly, this then alters the pure evaluation of each method. Technically, I would need some type of wash-out period (i.e., a period of doing nothing to 'forget' the prior method) to truly evaluate each method on its own. However, when it comes down to it, I WANT to change my eating speed and develop these habits and have decided to simply take each method as it comes while (gasp!) ignoring this confounding. With that said, I have chosen the order of these methods with an attempt to minimize this limitation. If you are a statistician, I deeply apologize for the mild arrhythmia you may be experiencing right now.
    (images 1, 2)

      26 comments:

      1. That's totally a habit I need to work on...put me in front of a bowl of spaghetti and I usually demolish it like the dude in the picture. Good luck with your experience, and I'll totally work on it with you!

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        1. yeah i look like that guy in the picture like every night. glad you are going to join in!

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      2. I'm a total scarfer - I think it was being raised in a large family, you ate quickly in order to get more. Anyway, I will be working on this with you.

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        1. yay! glad to have you joining in!

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      3. Ha I love this! I always eat my food too quickly, or do so while I am studying or in between things. I definitely want to try to be more mindful!

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        1. so should i not admit that right now i am eating my lunch? ooops.

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      4. Thank you for this Sara! I have been trying to do this lately because - and this is totally random - I find I get bloated after I eat too quick, and they say it's because when you eat fast you swallow a lot of air with your food (I also almost always drink everything through a straw, and that was contributing to the bloating too - how random? I've quit with the straw and now I'm trying to eat slower). However, my attempts to eat slowly lately have been successful in that the total meal time is about 20-25 minutes, but what's happening is I eat three or four bites super fast, then remember I need to be slow and put down my fork for a few minutes. Then do another few bites really fast and pause. Haha and on it goes. I need to take each bite slowly! I am totally doing this experiment with you!

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        1. Hey Anna! Embarrassing, but true I have that same problem. I am so encouraged to know that I am not the only one with this problem!

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      5. I think it's fascinating that you can form a new habit in 21 days. I usually can pace myself while eating, but I want to break my habit/NEED to have oatmeal every evening. At least I eat it slowly though, right?

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        1. haha. whatever you need to tell yourself. :)

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      6. This is great! Eating slower was one of my New Years resolutions....and I haven't done such a great job on it so far. I like their methods-- will def have to start trying them.

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      7. I love this post, I definitely eat my food way too fast. It sucks when you spend an hour cooking something, only to eat it in 5 minutes.

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      8. I am so guilty of doing this. Half the time I look at my empty plate and think 'is that really all gone'. I've been trying to slow things down by putting my fork down between bites and trying to talk more at meals.

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        1. i hate that feeling when you finish too quickly!

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      9. I am quite guilty of this and it's definitely something I am working on. I appreciate the reminder girl... my next meal I will try and eat with some mindfulness!

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      10. I am TERRIBLE at eating slow and being conscientious about eating!

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      11. This is such a creative and interesting challenge! I'll be interested to see which techniques work for you and which ones you dislike.
        I actually have the opposite problem; I eat extremely slowly. I always have! It used to drive my family of fast-eaters absolutely nuts. haha. I could work on being more mindful about my eating though. Rather than watching tv or using the computer during my meals, I should focus on the food that's in front of me.

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      12. Something I'm very guilty of as well, especially after army boot camp.... haha!

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      13. I can down my food like no other, but I am even more guilty of eating while completely distracted (on the computer!)

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      14. It's totally GO-TIME when I sit down to eat. I scarf the crap outta my food. I need to slow it down!

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      15. My brother has always been that way. He inhales his food. It's hard for me to eat around him because it's so distracting! I'm the complete opposite. I love food so much everything I eat I close my eyes and think about everything I'm tasting...husband thinks I'm crazy especially when things are so good and I make yum noises. But anyway, good luck this sounds like a cool experiment! Interested to see what method you think will work best.

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      16. I just love all your experiments!

        When I was little, I was a slow eater. I still am, but if I'm really hungry I can polish off my whole meal in no time! :P I still need to work on that..

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      17. I have exactly the same problem. I get so excited about food that I wolf it all down then at the end feel a bit disappointed for not enjoying it as much as I could of.

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      18. Great experiment idea! Reading through the other comments, I realize that no one appreciated your footnote on confounding quite as much as I did. Guess that is because I am also a scientist and fully understand your 'nerdy ramble' and your desire to control for confounding. Another method you may consider is to 'randomize' some of your readers to each of the methods and have them report back...too much? :) Then you may be able to publish it in the New England Journal of Bloggers - if they don't have one, they totally should! Looking forward to reading about your findings...

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        1. haha new england journal of bloggers :)

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      19. your footnote was the highlight of my day. girl after my own heart.

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