counting chewsWelcome 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 # 17  Count Your Chews.

Eating slowly, taking smaller bites, and chewing more are important parts of weight control. They are also important if you’ve had weight loss surgery to prevent food getting stuck. In previous challenges we addressed a couple of these recommendations: #5, if there is food in your mouth there should be nothing in your hand, and #15, eating with cocktail utensils. This week we tackled the third part of this recommendation, chewing more and we continued with challenge 5 and 15. We are putting it altogether, one bite at a time.
I teach in our preop Steps to Success class to chew each bite 20 to 30 times. It’s healthier eating for everyone in the family. Slowing down and chewing more benefits digestion and absorption, and lessens problems with acid reflux. There is some research that shows that the nerves that feed into the muscles in your jaw connect the satiety areas in your brain, the part of the brain that says you are no longer hungry. In 2011, Chinese researchers found people who chewed their food 40 times a mouthful ate far less calories and lower levels of the hormone, ghrelin, the hormone that says, “I’m hungry”. It’s hard to argue in favor of eating too fast when all the research points the other direction.

Vicki’s Observations:
• This got easier as the week went on. The first day or two I missed some of meals or snacks. Counting chews when I was eating by myself or with Bill wasn’t a problem. Eating with others was a problem because trying to listen to others talk was distracting and made it difficult for me to count.
• The mushier the food, the less chews. I could not chew a spoonful of yogurt 20 times.
• Fruits and veggies require lots of chews. I got my bite of apple up to 35 chews without a problem.
• We didn’t go back to using our teaspoons or salad forks so there would be more food to chew. We like eating with the little utensils so we were getting 20 chews with smaller bites.

Bill’s Observations:
• With my reflux problem I have always taken smaller bites and chewed my food more than most people, so that it is easier to swallow. This was a fairly easy challenge for me.
• Like Vicki, I had trouble getting my chews to 20 for things like yogurt and my ice cream.
• I made a protein drink every morning and you can’t chew a protein drink.
• Eating with smaller utensils and making sure I do my 20 chews per bite is helping me with keep my reflux problem in check.

You may have heard of the slow food movement as an alternative to fast food. How about we start a slow eating movement? The cost is small and the rewards are great. I know we are all too busy and don’t think we have enough time to slow it down. But what do you have to lose besides weight, reflux, and the discomfort of overeating?
Next week’s challenge didn’t work out so well for us, myself in particular. The counting continues but now we are counting something else. Perhaps I should stop reading so much research on eating behavior. We are both feeling like an experiment.
Eat Smarter…
Vicki Bovee, MS, RDN, LD

Want to catch up on what you’ve missed?
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.

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