When it comes to eating your way to a healthier BMI, there’s always something to count: calories, points, macros, sugar, sodium. And now experts are saying you should count your bites—each and every chomp.
At least that's the word from a new study published in the journal Advances in Obesity, Weight Management and Control, which suggests that counting—then reducing—your total number of daily bites is an effective way to lose weight. In the study, researchers asked 61 overweight men and women to count the number of bites and gulps of any beverage that wasn't water every day for a week. Then, they instructed them to cut that number by 20 or 30 percent and take that many bites and gulps for the next four weeks. The result: The participants lost an average of four pounds without doing anything else.
Considering that counting bites sounds like the easiest diet trick ever—and I'm not afraid of a little math—I decided to give it a go. I’d count my bites and gulps for one day and then immediately cut that amount by 20 percent as my goal for the next day. (I’ve never been a very patient person, so counting my baseline bites for a whole week really wasn’t my jam.)
Think counting every single bite you take sounds cray cray? Watch this video to see some of the strangest dieting trends throughout history.
Chomping By Numbers
On morning one, I woke up and had a cup of coffee along with a piece of toast with white beans, avocado, tomato, and a poached egg on top. I counted every bite and was surprised to learn it took me 27 bites to get through my breakfast toast—I thought it would be a lot less. A piece of toast isn't very big, so I thought maybe, 10, 12 bites max? I guess I hadn't factored in everything that was on top of said toast. But wait, how many sips of coffee did I take? I forgot to count. I guessed around 40. Whoops.
Halfway through a bag of almonds I was snacking on, I realized I should have been counting. Ugh, I did it again. Since there were only seven almonds left and each one is a bite, I decided the whole bag of almonds was 14 bites. Sounds legit, right? And how many bites did I say I took at breakfast again? #TrackingFail.
Fun fact: Of the 61 people who participated in the biting study, only 41 of them completed it. The rest had either given up or had so many, “Uh, yeah, I'm not sures” in their bite trackers that their data was unusable. At this point, it became very clear that I would have been excluded from the study findings. I was getting my guesstimate on all over the place.
Once I came to terms with the fact that counting bites was not actually the easiest weight-loss method ever, I started counting and recording each bite of snack, meal, and beverage gulp in my phone. Though I was back in the game, there were still a few estimates in there—but I was doing okay. By the end of day one, I had taken 200 bites. That meant I needed to aim for 160 by the end of day two.
The Diet's Biggest Downfall
Though that goal seemed doable, I was starting to see a few loopholes in this diet strategy. Counting bites alone doesn't help you eat healthier foods. I mean, shouldn’t you be allowed to take your total bite count and subtract a few dozen from it if most of the stuff you're chowing on is quality food? On day two, this issue really started to get to me while snacking on carrots. I was half wondering if I should eat my baby carrots in one whole bite rather than in two little nibbles. That's when it dawned on me that every carrot was “costing” me the same number of bites as an Oreo would. Major design flaw. (Also, trying to cheat the system by shoving a whole carrot in my mouth has Heimlich maneuver written all over it.) This made me appreciate the fact that many diets consider veggies to be “freebies.”
Still, I did find that all of the bite counting helped me cut down on my mindless munching—big time. It made me realize how many pieces of (night) cheese I had been plowing through while watching TV (13 to be exact) and that I eat an entire meal’s worth of food while cooking! That night, I taste tested 37 bites—that was more than I had taken during my whole lunch that day!
The Final Countdown
In the end, counting my bites did make me more aware of how much food I was eating, rather than allowing me to unconsciously put my fork into my mouth all day long. So yeah, I’d suggest that any woman who thinks she is eating healthy but still can't lose weight try it for a couple of days. As for me, I have no idea how many bites I took today—but they were all of yummy, good-for-me foods. And I’m cool with that.
All gifs courtesy of giphy.com.