Take it slow! Mindful Eating is the Key

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Guest Author, Merlin Ariefdjohan

The Museum’s Health Sciences Department is partnering with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus to publish a monthly series on the Museum blog called “Know Health”. The articles focus on current health topics selected by CU’s medical and graduate students in order to provide both English and Spanish speaking communities with current, accurate information. The posts in the “Know Health” series are edited versions of articles that first appeared in Contrapoder magazine. Thank you to the students at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus for bringing these stories to life.


(aka Dr. Nicole Garneau, chair and curator, Health Sciences Department)


Take it slow! Mindful Eating May be the Key to Losing Weight

Guest Author, Merlin Ariefdjohan is a student in the School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

[en Español]

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Losing weight is tough. Nearly everyone has tried it at least once, if not many times in their lives. From sweating it out in the gym, to counting calories, to saying no to carbs – maybe all three – we try and try, and yet the needle on the scale barely moves.

But what if the trick to losing weight isn’t just about what we eat, what if it’s about how we eat too? It may sound far-fetched but the idea is supported by new and cutting edge science.

Mindful eating starts with being aware that you feel full. Recent research studies shows that eating slowly, consuming food in smaller bites, and chewing longer before swallowing and taking breaks between each bite are associated with this feeling. We may think this is controlled by the stomach, but in fact it’s all at the level of the brain taking in info from the stomach. The brain controls feelings of fullness. On average, it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to receive an ‘I am full’ signal from the stomach indicating that it is time to stop eating. Here’s the catch though, when food is eaten quickly there is a lag in that signal detection, which studies now show to lead to overeating, and ultimately, weight gain.

In a digital era where any activities can be recorded and measured, it isn’t a surprise that entrepreneurs have developed a device to monitor how much you eat, how long you chew and how much time it takes to finish a meal.   Welcome the HAPIfork. This device, made its debut in January 2013 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Please note that in describing the science of mindful eating and the characteristics of this device, it does not imply that we, the Museum nor the University of Colorado, endorse this product). The electronic fork monitors and tracks oral processing characteristics. A circuit tallies a bite whenever the metal edges of the fork touch the mouth, counting the number of times food is delivered from the plate to the mouth as “fork servings” per minute. It also records the time between fork serving and how long it takes to finish a meal. An indicator light on the utensil blinks when food is eaten too quickly and information collected by the device is automatically transmitted to a special app on a smartphone or computer to track eating speed and progress.

A constant use of mindful encouraging techniques at mealtime—be they devices or good old fashioned conversation, or a favorite of pregnant women, chopstick—may permanently modify eating behavior. This ‘mindful eating’ approach encourages a reduction of eating rate and an increase in mealtime contributing to sufficient time for the fullness signal to reach the brain. This would prevent overeating and ultimately avert weight gain. Not that’s something we can all (mindfully) cheers to!

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