By: Megan Lautz, MS, RD, TSAC-F
Do slow eaters have an advantage when it comes to digestion and overall health?
Are you the first person to finish your meal at the station? Or do you compete with your fellow firefighters to see who finishes first? Many firefighters inhale their dinner after back to back calls or out of fear that dinner will be cut short by another call. Research suggests that fast eaters may gain more weight over time relative to slower eaters. In contrast, slower eaters naturally consume less food and feel more full after the meal.
Digestion starts when we see and smell food, as saliva is produced to help break food down. This also signals the stomach to secrete more acid and the small intestine to start peristalsis. When you eat too quickly, you may notice a small stomach ache or bloat after a meal due to lackluster digestion. Slow eaters typically experience better digestion because they take the time to allow their food to digest. Slow eaters are often better hydrated than their fast eating counterparts. Slow eaters also took time to sip water between bites, which may have contributed to less hunger, hours after the meal.
While it may not be possible to eat slower at a busy station, do your best to try these tips at home or when detailed to a slower station.
- Try to make a plate of food last 15 to 20 minutes.
- Take half of the portion you want and eat it at your normal pace. Then go back for the second half and eat it at a slower pace. If you end up running a call, at least you have something in your stomach to last you until you return to the station.
- Take a moment to put down your fork or take a sip of water between bites.
- Consider switching to chopsticks to make it more challenging to eat quickly.
- Pace yourself with a slower eater.
- Ask yourself if you are still truly hungry or wait 15 minutes before grabbing seconds.
Megan Lautz, MS, RD, TSAC-F
Megan Lautz is a Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer with a Masters in Sports Nutrition. Her consulting company RescueRD LLC is designed to help firefighters perform better, recover faster, and live longer. For more from Megan, visit @Rescue.RD on Facebook or Instagram.
Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash