The Half Hour Diet is not about eating slowly. It is about moderating food intake then giving time for natural controls to lessen hunger so that, after a pause, it takes less willpower to resist eating more. Once you learn to recognize the onset of satiety, you can also learn to expect it and to wait for it. You eat a smaller portion as fast (or slow) as you like, and you may not have to change what you eat if a brief delay allows satisfaction on reduced portions.
So, For A Simple, Free Diet . . .
Treat Food Like Medicine
On taking medicine, we wait an hour to feel the effect, before considering a second dose, because everyone knows there is a delay in pain relief. If we took pill after pill until the pain disappears, we would overdose.
The same is true for food. A meal of calorically-dense food is so small that the stomach will not feel full. Because relief from hunger is delayed 30 to 40 minutes, we often fill up (overdose) on seconds and thirds before the first portion has taken effect. Most people, at some time, have been interrupted during a meal and returned only to find they were no longer hungry for the food remaining on their plate.
Just 3 Steps: Eat, Pause, Reflect. . .
- Eat less than usual (i.e. don’t eat till full).
- Distract yourself for half an hour.
- Then, if you are still hungry, have a little more.
But you probably won’t be hungry, and even if you are, it should take less food to satisfy. Here is why:
Hunger and satiety (satisfaction) arise in the brain. After a meal, it takes time for signals from the stomach to reach the brain, eliminate hunger, and produce satisfaction (satiety). If the effect were immediate, we would always eat just the right amount, but with plentiful food and hurried meals, we now routinely overeat during a delay that confuses the brain.
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Goldilocks: Selective Disadvantage of Delayed Satiety
However complex its biochemical origins may be, the simple fact of a delay in satiety can explain overeating to obesity in otherwise normal people.
During a meal, the sooner we experience satiety, the less we eat and the less we will weigh. If satisfied “too early,” we eat too little and weight falls. If satisfied “just right,” we take no extra calories and weight is stable. If satisfied “too late”—just a few hundred extra calories per meal—we feast to obesity.
In times of feast or famine, delayed satiety had a survival advantage, encouraging excess calorie intake to store energy for later food scarcity. Early in our recent time of plenty, mothers regulated food availability, blunting the urge to overeat. However, in our now constant state of plenty, delayed satiety is a survival disadvantage because it contributes to overeating and the many ill effects of obesity.
With ever greater abundance of food, the only time we face external limits is from self-imposed adherence to restrictive diets, and most of us do lose weight on a variety of such diets. However, when we stop the diets, we typically regain the weight, leading to repetitive cycles of dieting and weight gain.
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Our obesity epidemic seems not entirely due to poor food choices (the problem is worldwide) nor a new defect in our biology (most of us do still experience satiety). Since we may be unable to reduce the delay in satiety (without resorting to medicines), knowing the effects of meal timing can help us adjust our expectations and perhaps achieve a sustainable reduction in calorie intake with a brief pause. The hardest part is waiting through the first thirty minutes.
Don't Eat Till Full
There are several problems with using fullness to signal adequate food intake. First, the stomach is a muscular pouch, which can stretch to accommodate more food, so a full stomach can mean different amounts of food. Second, many foods pack a lot of calories into a small volume (high caloric density), so a full stomach might hold more calories than we need in a day. Third, after eating till full, the arrival of satiety a half hour later transforms feeling full into an uncomfortable sense of feeling bloated.
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If you are over forty, you probably remember putting less food on your plate, rarely having seconds, feeling bloated only one meal per year (Thanksgiving dinner), yet never leaving the table hungry because meals were family events that lasted forty-five minutes. We may not have eaten our food any slower, years ago, but we did linger around the table.
Today, families are smaller and we have more entertainment options. We seem to eat faster and savor our food less, and because we cannot feel satisfied in ten minutes, we often use a sense of fullness in the stomach as an immediate substitute for delayed satiety. But it takes much less food to satisfy the brain's hunger.
Take the Half-Hour Challenge
At your next meal, eat as fast as you wish, but try eating less than usual (one half to two thirds), then note how you feel every five minutes for a half hour. This experiment is especially easy with pizza: eat half as many slices (or just one slice) as fast as you like, then pause and reflect.
Most people will be just as hungry for the first fifteen minutes, but around twenty minutes, many will start to feel a change that grows stronger. It will not work for everyone, but if, after a half hour, you are nearing satisfaction, you have the best chance to lose weight on the Half-Hour Diet.
A skeptical young lawyer, who usually eats 3 or 4 large pizza slices but agreed to wait after his first slice, gave these responses:
“I’m as hungry as ever.”
“I’m still hungry.”
“I’m still as hungry as ever.”
“Maybe something is happening.”
“Something is definitely happening.”
“I think I’m okay.”
“I’m done. I don’t need anymore.”
Why Favor This Diet
This is the diet many mothers used to recommend: Eat your vegetables. Have a little protein with each meal. Don’t ruin your dinner. No eating after the kitchen is cleaned for the night. Don’t gobble your food. Leave some for your sister. Don’t stuff yourself. No, you may not have the last pork chop.
This diet is simple: Some say “it’s so simple, it’s too good to be true,” but that apparent simplicity (there is no lengthy book to read) depends on complex, neurobiologic controls that work in the background even though few of us fully understand them (in the same way we use our computers, telephones, and cars without knowing all the details).
You can start this diet right now: There is nothing to buy. The red zone on this site’s logo is your Free Half Hour—use it well. And as supported by recent research, and by generations of mothers, build your daily routine on a 12-hour overnight fast.
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