HOW often do you scroll on your phone during lunch, only to realise you've scoffed your meal down in five minutes flat?
It's not just lunch – many of us shove a quick brekkie in our mouths before running out the door, or we'll eat leftovers straight out of the fridge for dinner.
You might be doing everything else right – eating your fruit and veg, steering clear of refined carbs and saturated fats.
But scientists argue that the WAY you eat your meals could be just as important as what's in them.
Experts have previously told The Sun that eating too fast could make you bloated.
But researchers from Roehampton and Bristol universities have also linked faster eating rates to higher BMIs in both adults and children.
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And diet guru Dr Michael Mosley linked 'thoughtless' eating – for example in front of a TV – to increased snack cravings.
According to him, slowing down and eating mindfully can actually reduce food cravings and promote weight loss.
Juls Abernethy, co-founder of the Body Retreat – a health and wellbeing retreat that focuses on 'conscious eating' for weight loss and stress management – told the Telegraph eating speed can sabotage weight loss, as it affects the production of leptin.
This is the hormone that communicates a feeling of fullness to your brain.
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“If you’ve sat down to a healthy meal but finish it in two minutes, you might go back to the fridge, as there’s no feeling of satiety,” he explained, as leptin isn't released until 15 or 20 minutes after you've started eating.
He's not the only expert to warn that those who wolf down their meals fail to realise they are full and tend to overeat.
Japanese researchers followed 1,083 middle-aged adults for five years.
They found fast eaters were associated with greater weight gain andhigher blood sugar levels, and had a 11.6 per cent chance of being diagnosed with metabolic syndrome – risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.
In contrast, the likelihood for slow eaters was just 2.3 per cent.
Nichola Ludlam-Raine, a dietitian and British Dietetic Association (BDA) spokesman told the Telegraph that if you feel uncomfortably full shortly after eating, suffer from bloating or excess wind, or want more after finishing a decent meal, you probably need to slow down.
The magic number for doing that is 20.
“For those who’ve had bariatric surgery, we use the 20:20:20:20 rule: a 20 pence-sized piece of food, chew it 20 times, put your knife and fork down for 20 seconds between mouthfuls, and take 20 minutes to eat the meal,” she said.
“Obviously, if you haven’t had weight-loss surgery, you can eat bigger mouthfuls, but you should still take 20 minutes over a meal and aim to chew each mouthful more.”
There a few other ways you can slow your eating pace right down.
Try setting a timer when you're having a meal to get an idea of how long you're taking to eat it – you might be surprised by how quickly it's gone.
Then try removing distractions, like TV or your phone, and sit down at a table to eat rather than your sofa.
What are things I can try to shed body fat?
Taking longer to eat your food is just one of the ways in which you lose weight safely and improve you overall health.
In June last year, the American Heart Association (AHA) published 'Life’s Essential Eight', a checklist containing eight lifestyle recommendations to improve and maintain heart health.
A study lead by researchers from Ohio State University – and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association – found that adults who adhered to the programme were able to successfully lose weight.
Researchers recruited 20,305 US adults aged 19 or older. They found that the 13 per cent of participants who lost at least five per cent of their body weight had followed the eight lifestyle recommendations more closely.
They also found that people who skipped meals or used prescription diet pills than those who made the changes recommended by AHA.
The study highlighted that people who are actively trying to lose weight may benefit from keeping their heart health in mind.
The health body's 'essential eight' lifestyle recommendations were:
1. Eat better
Follow a healthy, balanced diet consisting of unprocessed, nutrient-rich foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, plant-based proteins, lean animal proteins, skinless poultry, fish, and seafood.
The AHA also advised you cook with 'non-tropical' oils such as olive and canola oil, as opposed to coconut or palm oil.
And it suggested you avoid sweet drinks, alcohol, salt, red and processed meats, refined carbohydrates, full-fat dairy products and highly processed foods.
2. Be more active
Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week.
This is in line with the NHS's guidelines for exercise for people between 19 and 64.
3. Quit smoking
Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health, as it'll boost your mental and physical health.
The AHA said you set a date to drop the nasty habit and stick to it, choose whether you'll do so cold turkey or gradually and plan how you'll deal with cravings and urges.
4. Get good kip
Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
Not getting enough shuteye has been linked of health conditions – such as heart disease – and can actually cause you gain weight.
The AHA recommended you charge your phone as far away from your bed as possible, dim your screen if you do use it and try to go to sleep at the same time every night.
5. Manage weight
The American health body recommended you learn what portion sizes you should be eating and stick to those, stay active, stick to a healthy diet and talk to a healthcare expert if you're not sure how to approach your plan.
It's important to only create goals that are achievable to stick to, nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert has emphasised.
6. Control cholesterol
High levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Though it can be hereditary, the condition is also linked to diet, weight and smoking habits.
So controlling you cholesterol levels is very much linked to the rest of the AHA's recommendations.
A blood test should be able to tell you if they're low or high.
7. Manage blood sugar
Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies use as energy. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.
Managing these is once again linked to diet, exercise, keeping to healthy weight and swearing off smoking.
Nutritionist Jess Hillard told the Sun five ways to avoid your blood sugar spiking.
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8. Manage blood pressure
Keeping your blood pressure within acceptable ranges can keep you healthier longer, the AHA wrote.
Adults should maintain optimal blood pressure levels below 120/80 mm Hg.
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