We’ve all been there: You’re sitting next to a colleague at work who is chomping so loudly you wonder if he’s trying to devour a hambone. You hear every crunch, slurp, and gurgle, along with that awful swallowing sound. Annoyed, you glance over, expecting to see him having swallowed a platter of food. Nope, just a run of the mill sandwich. Your appetite now somewhat depleted, you return to your own lunch, silently thanking your mom for teaching you table manners.
But there’s a problem here. You may be interpreted to be culturally more correct in your modest chewing methods, but your colleague is miles ahead of you in the weight loss game. In fact, research has even proven that the louder and more you chew, the less your food intake will be. Here’s the rub: Researchers from Brigham Young and Colorado State Universities told college students to eat cookies with three different factors in mind: eat as loudly as possible, eat normally, and eat as quietly as possible. After completing two of these experiments, with each involving approximately 200 participants, the researchers found that people who chomped the loudest ate by far less than the rest, according to Women’s Health.
The study was published in the scientific journal Quality Food and Preference, and it seemed to hinge on one factor. Sure, you may burn a bit more calories trying to chomp away, but the real issue at play is the philosophy of mindfulness. Most people do not eat mindfully, and for good reason — they are planning their afternoon work to be done, feeding toddlers, watching TV, or are possibly late for an appointment. But the researchers at Brigham Young and Colorado State Universities say that being aware of and concentrating on every bite not only gives you the ability to enjoy your food, which may trigger the release of endorphins (“happy” neurotransmitters), but it also makes you very aware of what you’re eating and how much. Slowing down to chew every bite loudly and thoroughly also brings feelings of satiety, or feeling full, in a more expedient manner than those who eat normally, so loud chewers tend to take in fewer calories.
Study co-author Ryan Elder, the assistant professor of marketing at BYU’s Marriot School of Management, gives a term to this phenomenon: The Crunch Effect. While your coworkers or family might not like you very much, your swimsuit is sure to love you if you employ this tactic of mindful eating.
“Sound is typically labeled as the forgotten food sense. But if people are more focused on the sound the food makes, it could reduce consumption.”
That means the more you tune out other thoughts and instead simply concentrate on chewing, the fewer calories you are likely to consume, both because you are aware of what you are consuming, and because you will become fuller faster. However, there are people out there just not brave to do that in public, and that’s ok. Taking the opposite approach works almost, but not quite, as well: Chew your food as silently as you can — no crunch, gurgle, or lip smacking. Again, the idea isn’t so much that you’re being quiet, but that you are mindful of what and how much you are eating. This may be a preferable method at business lunches and first dates, but go back to that obnoxious eating when you eat alone.
The group that consumed the most cookies were the ones who were told to eat as they normally would. This did not exercise mindfulness of eating because they ate as they always did with no thought, which can lead to greater caloric consumption.
So today, nosh away — your waistline will love you, even if your colleagues don’t.
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