You load up your plate, take huge bites, and speed through the meal like it's a contest. Although that might seem efficient, it could also be sabotaging your weight loss or weight maintenance goals, according to research presented at the Nutrition 2021 Live online conference.
Researchers served 44 participants macaroni and cheese once a week for four weeks and timed the speed at which participants ate and the size of their bites. The portion sizes were different each week.
On average, they ate 43% more when the portion size was increased by 75%. No matter what the portion size, participants who ate faster and took larger bites tended to eat more, researchers noted.
They suggested this is likely the result of "reduced oro-sensory exposure," sometimes called OSE, which means how food feels in your mouth as you're eating it. Although this doesn't tend to get much recognition compared to calorie amounts and portion sizes, OSE can have a big effect on how you eat.
Previous studies about OSE found that if you have higher levels of that stimulation—something you can achieve by eating slower and more mindfully—it tends to help you feel full sooner than if you take big bites and chew less. That research adds that the very low OSE of sugary beverages, for example, is one of the reasons they tend to be consumed quickly and in larger quantities, making them problematic for weight loss.
Awareness can help with changing that as well as the three habits highlighted in the recent study. Vanessa Rissetto, RD, notes that it can feel weird to start being more mindful as you're eating if you've always had a habit of eating quickly and taking big bites, but it's worth making the effort.
"The best approach is to see this as a fun experiment instead of a daunting task of trying to stay fully present for every single bite," she says.
Rissetto advises clients to begin with a cookie—a food many people often eat quickly and then move on to the next. She suggests that they look at it closely, note how it smells, and take very small bites, then eat it slowly by swallowing each bite before taking another one.
"Usually, people realize they can do with just one cookie, and not a sleeve of them, from this exercise," she says.
Like any habit, it can take time to implement and she emphasizes that you don't have to make every meal last for hours. Instead, building more awareness into the meal, taking modest portions to start, and appreciating the texture of your food can go a long way toward preventing overeating.
For more tips, be sure to check out 5 Ways to Stop Overeating Right Now, Says Psychologist.