my timerWelcome to our healthy lifestyle challenge lead by our program dietitian Vicki Bovee and her husband, Bill.

Because we can always do better to live a healthier lifestyle Vicki and Bill decided to work on a weekly challenge together to provide support and accountability for each other and hopefully inspire you to make healthy changes. Follow along with them as they tackle a variety of challenges to eat better, eat more mindfully, and improve physical health and emotional well-being. Vicki and Bill invite you to participate and accept the challenges to improve your lifestyle too. Some of them may be difficult and please feel free to modify the challenges to accommodate your dietary needs and physical abilities.

Challenge #44 Slowing down mealtime
I have been a fast eater most of my life. When I was in grade school my mom had a part-time job in the evenings and she had to be at work at 5. She would put dinner on the table at 4:30 and we had to be finished by 4:40 so she could get out the door to get to work on time. Up until then I was a slow eater but her going to work sure changed that. I can hear her telling me to hurry up and eat (the oversized portions she put on my plate). Well, many years have passed since I was a kid and I can’t blame my mom for eating too fast all these years. I have been working on this bad habit for what seems like forever and FINALLY I have slowed down with effort and practice.

How long does it take you to eat dinner? If you haven’t timed yourself, at your next dinner look at the clock when you start and when you finish. If you’re like most Americans you are probably finished in 7 to 10 minutes. We have our big forks and shovel in the food. Research confirms there are definite benefits to slowing down your eating to make your meal last 20 minutes.
• When you eat too fast, your body doesn’t have time to send the signals from your stomach to head to say “enough, stop eating.” So you continue to eat and now you are overeating. It takes 20 minutes to get the signals from your stomach up to your brain.
• When you eat slower and chew more, you have better digestion of food and absorption of nutrients.
• You enjoy your food more because with more chewing you prolong the taste of the food.
• Eating slower allows us to be satiated, or no longer hungry. That is where we want to be, not full.

Now you can buy gadgets to help you slow down your eating, or you can practice on your own for free. I chose to conquer the beast with behavior modification rather than with a vibrating fork. We’ve done previous challenges to work up to this one and I’ve really put some effort into them and continued to do so after the challenge week was over. Any behavior change doesn’t happen without awareness and practice. Here are the steps I used to make my mealtime go from 6 minutes to 20 minutes.
Step 1 Eat with a smaller fork. (#15) We use appetizer cutlery. You can’t shovel in food with tiny forks. Small bites mean
more bites and it takes longer to eat.
Step 2 If there’s food in your mouth, there should be nothing in your hand. (#5) Put down the fork, the spoon, or hand-held food until you’ve swallowed what’s in your mouth and it’s down your throat.
Step 3 Count your chews. (#17) I’ve read recommendations to chew each bite 50 times. My goal was 20 to 30 chews, depending on what I was eating. Fruits and vegetables take more chewing than processed soft foods. The food should be pretty much liquefied before you swallow.
Step 4 Set a timer. I found the timer on my iPhone and I set it for 20 minutes and put it on the table next to me. One time I set the timer on the microwave. By the end of the week I could just look at my watch and go from there. It’s funny. When the week started I was checking the timer at about 10 minutes. At the end of the week I didn’t look until the 20 minutes was about up.

Vicki’s observations:
• My breakfast shake was an easy 20 minutes. No problem here.
• Lunch at work was no problem. It was easy to eat slower by talking to others in the break room.
• Dinner with Bill or out with family was easy. Again, I had time to talk to slow down the meal.
• My biggest problem was dinner at home by myself. Bill was gone for a couple of days and I was on my own. I no longer eat dinner in front of the TV (#40). I was sitting at the table and since we have done several challenges with no distractions at the table (#10 & #33), I couldn’t have my iPad or a book to read. It was tough to get to 20 minutes since my meals were small (I eat less when I eat alone). I looked out the window and enjoyed my neighbor’s yard. But I do confess one meal I used my iPad while eating to do my food recording in My Fitness Pal. I reasoned I was still paying attention to my food. Oh, how we can rationalize just about anything when it comes to food.
• I really feel good about my success. I have been a fast eater almost my entire life and Bill has commented on my speed. Notice I said commented, not complimented. Embarrassingly, sometimes I am finished and he is only a few bites into his meal.
• I actually did notice the difference in satiation by taking longer to eat. I really was no longer hungry at the end of 20 minutes.
• This is not yet a habit for me and it will take practice and vigilance to make it a habit, but it’s one habit I want to keep.

Bill’s observations:
• This challenge was very easy for me because I just don’t eat fast. As I have stated before, I have reflux and I know I need to chew my food more than most people to make sure I can swallow it without choking.
• I have always been a bit embarrassed by how slow I eat but now I know it is healthier for my body.
• Everyone I know eats faster than me and now I won’t let it bother me. I am the one eating correctly.

If you’ve had bariatric surgery you know the unpleasant consequences of eating too fast. For those of us whom haven’t had weight loss surgery, there are still consequences from eating too fast. We may not hurt or regurgitate, but we can certainly eat to discomfort by eating too much food. Slow it down and savor every bite. Practice makes perfect as they say. Next week I won’t be perfect because there is no perfect for some things but I can always do better. How about practice makes better?

Eat Smarter…
Vicki Bovee, MS, RDN, LD

The road to success is always under construction
Challenge #1 Eat everything sitting down.
Challenge #2 Eliminate cheese as an ingredient.
Challenge #3 Walk sideways in your home.
Challenge #4 Include a fresh herb in your daily meal plan.
Challenge #5 If there is food in your mouth there should be nothing in your hand.
Challenge #6 Eat the MyPlate recommendations for fruits and vegetables.
Challenge #7  Stand (and walk if possible) while talking on the phone.
Challenge # 8 Don’t eat out of the package. Put your food on a plate or in a bowl.
Challenge # 9 Keep a food record.
Challenge # 10 Power down while eating.
Challenge # 11 Eating to reduce inflammation.
Challenge # 12 Eating to help our environment.
Challenge # 13 Switch it up.
Challenge # 14 The road to success is still under construction.
Challenge # 15 Little bites.
Challenge # 16 Drink your water.
Challenge # 17 Count your chews.
Challenge # 18 The 100 Bite Diet.
Challenge # 19 Start your day right.
Challenge # 20 Holiday moves.
Challenge # 21 Limit TV time.
Challenge # 22 The Paleo Diet: Eat Like a Caveman.
Challenge # 23 Sweet dreams.
Challenge # 24 What color is your plate?

Challenge # 25 Six month reflections
Challenge # 26 Retro-walking.
Challenge # 27 Gimme a high fiber
Challenge # 28 The Half Plate Rule
Challenge #29 Feel Good Week
Challenge #30 Try one new healthy food a day
Challenge #31 It’s a stretch
Challenge #32 TLC for heart health
Challenge #33 The sounds of silence
Challenge #34 10,000 steps a day
Challenge #35  35/350
Challenge #36 Have a super week
Challenge #37 Stress busters
Challenge #38 Walking the tightrope
Challenge #39
The 7PM cut off
Challenge #40
Primary eating
Challenge #41 We’re gluten free
Challenge #42
Do what you gotta do
Challenge #43 Fighting sitting disease

Vicki Bovee is the Registered Dietitian for Western Bariatric Institute and leads the non-surgical weight loss program, “Health and Lifestyle Program.” Contact Vicki


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