IN OUR OVERSTIMULATED culture, our attention spans have become so short that we’re always in a rush to find the next distraction. This has a detrimental effect on many areas of our lives, from our productivity to our mental health. But it is also one of the factors contributing to the obesity crisis. If you don’t focus on what you’re eating and wolf down your food, your brain takes longer to register that your stomach is full and you can end up eating more than your body needs.
This has been supported by a new study, published in the journal BMJ Open by researchers in Japan. They looked at data collected through health checkups and claims from more than 59,700 individuals with type-2 diabetes as part of health insurance plans. The data spans from 2008 to mid-2013. What the researchers found was that there was a link between eating slowly and having a lower waist circumference and body mass index. Of the slow-eating group, 21.5% were obese, in the normal-eating group, 30% were obese and in the fast-eating group 45% were obese. The fast-eaters had an average BMI of around 25, which put them in the overweight category.
It’s incredible that when we eat, we don’t even take the opportunity to enjoy the food that we’re fortunate to have. And it’s incredible that something so simple can make such a difference to our overall health. In the middle of a health crisis and a global obesity epidemic, little actions like these can have big effects. Obesity carries with it numerous health problems, from heart disease and high blood pressure to diabetes and cancer, among others. And obesity creates a vicious cycle: The more overweight you are, the less likely you are to exercise, the less active you are throughout the day, the more sedentary you are, and the slower your metabolism runs. Weight gain becomes increasingly easy. Weight loss becomes increasingly hard.
In the US, a healthy population has made the decision to become unhealthy. The cost of obesity to the country is staggering, and the suffering it is causing to individuals and families is tragic. And our culture is so distracted and obsessed with our phones and tablets that we can’t even focus on what’s right in front of us for long. We need now to re-establish self-discipline as a virtue and look for ways to improve health literacy at every level of society. We need to raise awareness of the toll that our eating and exercise habits are having on us a nation. And we need to eat slowly, enjoy our food––and stay healthy.