January 8, 2017

How To Eat Healthy: The 20 Minute Meal Rule

The 20 Minute Meal Rule

Given my lack of patience, I know how easy it is to devour a meal in five minutes, particularly when I’m in a rush. For most of my life, I have viewed eating as one more thing I need to complete as quickly as possible. This made fast food and microwavable meals two of my best friends when I was growing up.

When I first got married and went to dinner with my in-laws, I remember how frustrating it was when they took a full hour to eat their meal. As much as I enjoyed the company and conversation between bites, I found myself sitting with a clean plate for the last 45 minutes of each meal, looking at everyone else around the table as their forks moved between the plate and their mouth in what felt like slow motion. As it turns out, my in-laws had it right.

The more I studied this topic, the more I learned that nothing good comes from racing through meals. When you eat too fast, your digestive system does not have enough time to send a “you’re getting full” message to your brain. So you tend to keep eating — and end up eating too much. When you overeat, you get less enjoyment from consuming the excess quantities compared with the initial flavorful bites. So when you rush through a meal, you eat more than you need, and you enjoy the food less.

Eating fast not only leads to overconsumption, but it also nearly doubles your risk of obesity and increases your odds of Type 2 diabetes by two and a half times. In contrast, if you eat slowly and take the time to savor each bite, you will consume significantly less and avoid these ill effects.

Rapid eating can also cause discomfort after a meal.

When you eat too fast, you introduce extra air into your digestive tract. This overloads your stomach, causing it to produce more acid. The result is heartburn, or what is technically known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). One study found that eating a meal in 5 rather than 30 minutes made people 50 percent more likely to have heartburn.

In contrast, an extended meal with friends is one of the best investments of your time for a variety of reasons. Take time to enjoy each bite of food along with the conversation. Spend more time with loved ones, eat slower, and savor the taste of your food.

If you chew your food properly, a meal should take at least 20 minutes, according to one expert.

Slowing down can also give your brain and stomach time to realize you are getting full. I find the 20-minute rule to be a good general guideline, especially when I eat alone. Although I am still tempted to eat much faster, aiming for 20 minutes at least slows me down.

Even when takeout food is the only option, there are things you can do to slow your consumption. Something as simple as forcing yourself to put your food, arm, fork, or spoon down between bites can help you avoid rapidly shoveling food into your mouth. Savor the first few bites of each meal. Learn to enjoy the process of eating foods that are good for you.

Excerpt from “Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes” by Tom Rath (© 2013 by Tom Rath)

About the author

Tom RathTom Rath has been described by the media and business leaders as, “one of the greatest thinkers of his generation.” He studies the role of human behavior in health, business, and economics. Tom writes and speaks on a range of topics, from wellbeing to organizational leadership.

Tom has written five bestsellers in the last decade, including the #1 New York Times bestseller How Full Is Your Bucket? In 2012, his book StrengthsFinder 2.0 was the top-selling nonfiction book worldwide. Tom’s most recent New York Times bestsellers are Strengths-Based Leadership, Wellbeing, and Eat Move Sleep. In total, his books have sold more than 5 million copies, been translated in 16 languages, and made over 250 appearances on the Wall Street Journal’s bestseller list.

To know more about Tom, visit his website www.tomrath.org.

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