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Are you the first person to finish your meal at the station? Or do you subconciously 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 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. Eating slowly also increases hormones that signal fullness, leading to smaller portions consumed. Slow eaters are often better hydrated than their fast eating counterparts. Slow eaters take time to sip water between bites, which may have contributed to less hunger hours after the meal.
Less Weight Gain
Those who eat quickly tend to weigh more than those who do not. Fast eaters are 115% more likely to be obese than slow eaters. In multiple studies, those who reported being fast eaters gained twice as much weight relative to slow eaters. Eating slower can result in smaller portions and less calories consumed, which may delay weight gain for slower eaters.
Putting into Practice
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.
For habitually fast eaters, eating slower will be a huge challenge. You may slip up here and there, and that is okay. However, changing the pace of eating does not cost money and does not require drastic changes in food choices. Many firefighters who have tried eating slower have noticed feeling fuller faster and less bloating after meals. Give it a try and see how you feel!
Megan Lautz, MS, RD, CSCS, TSAC-F
Megan is a Registered Dietitian and coach who specializes in firefighter nutrition. Megan’s mission is to help firefighters perform better, recover faster, and enjoy long healthy retirements. Megan is the owner of RescueRD LLC, which provides nutrition seminars and coaching for tactical athletes across the country. Check out @Rescue.RD on Facebook and Instagram.