FUKUOKA, Japan — If you want to shed some pounds without changing what you eat, try changing how you eat. A new study finds that three simple eating habits could make all the difference when it comes to fitting into those older, tighter pants collecting dust in your closet.
Researchers from the Kyushu University Graduate School of Medical Sciences say people who eat their meals slowly, avoid nighttime snacking, and don’t go to sleep until at least two hours have passed since dinner are more likely to see their waistlines shrink.
For the study, the researchers obtained data from regular checkups of 59,717 Japanese men and women diagnosed with type-2 diabetes during 2008 and 2013. In addition to having their BMI and waistlines measured, they also submitted blood and urine samples, and completed questionnaires on their health and lifestyles.
The surveys included questions on eating and sleeping habits, including a self-assessment of how fast the participants ate food, how soon they went to bed after dinner, and the frequency with which they snacked at night. About 37 percent admitted gobbling down their meals quickly, while only 7 percent took his or her time with each bite.
Upon their first checkups, the researchers found the small minority that ate slowly tended to show healthier lifestyles than those who ate fast or at normal speeds. About half of the participants admitted in followups that they’d changed their eating speed during the study period. After eliminating any factors that might influence a person’s risk for obesity, the authors found that people who ate at a normal speed were 29 percent less likely to be obese, while the slowest eaters saw a 42 percent risk reduction. Similarly, normal and slow eaters were more prone to having smaller waist sizes.
One possible reason, the authors write, for the result could be “that fast eaters may continue to eat until they feel full despite having already consumed an adequate amount of calories, and the combined effect of eating quickly and overeating may contribute to weight gain. In contrast, eating slowly may help to increase feelings of satiety before an excessive amount of food is ingested.”
The researchers also found that participants who, at least three times a week, continued to eat snacks after dinner or went to bed less than two hours after dinner showed worsened BMI measurements.
“The major finding of this study is that changes in eating speed can affect obesity, BMI and waist circumference,” conclude authors Yumi Hurst and Haruhisa Fukuda. “The control of eating speed may therefore be a possible means of regulating body weight and preventing obesity, which in turn reduces the risk of developing non-communicable diseases.”
Hurst and Fukuda point out, however, that the study results were based on observation and self-assessments, and physical activity levels weren’t taken into consideration. Naturally, those who make regular workouts a priority likely had an easier road to weight loss versus more sedentary individuals.
The study’s findings were published in the journal BMJ Open.