Chewing: A Surprising Way to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

by Mike Mutzel


Recently scientists revealed how fast eaters were at increased risk for being overweight and having metabolic syndrome and multiple cardiovascular-disease risk factors.Rapid eaters don’t fully chew their food and may not activate the neurological pathways needed to light the digestive fire. Two studies have found that chewing forty times before swallowing led to decreased levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and increased levels of two critically important gut peptides, cholecystokinin (CCK) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1).

Mind-body therapies such as HeartMath, yoga, and meditation ignite a powerful anti-inflammatory pathway in the body via the vagus nerve. Vagus nerve activation is also required to properly turn on digestive secretions as well as prompt movement of the gastrointestinal tract.
Figure 1. Mind-body therapies such as HeartMath, yoga, and meditation ignite a powerful anti-inflammatory pathway in the body via the vagus nerve. Vagus nerve activation is also required to properly turn on digestive secretions as well as prompt movement of the gastrointestinal tract.

Overall, mindful eating and chewing at least forty times per swallow is linked to reduced food intake. Thorough chewing may activate the vagus nerve that communicates with the digestive tract, optimizing digestion and the release of gut hormones, which help us to balance blood sugar and burn more fat.

Tools to Increase Mindful Eating

One of my most effective tips for weight loss is helping clients to practice meditative breathing prior to a meal. Eating in a rushed, stressed physiological state leads to poor chewing, improper digestion, and imbalanced gut microflora. In contrast, mindful strategies such as deep breathing will increase the “rest and digest” or parasympathetic nervous system including the vagus nerve, which activates digestive juices and gut hormones such as CCK and GLP-1. Vagus nerve activation is key to optimal digestive health.


is a great way to boost your gut-brain communication axis, and keep inflammation away. Since starting HeartMath in 2011 I've noted great improvements in my own body composition, digestion and even public speaking. My clients report similar feedback.

This inexpensive device can be used anywhere; just 5 to 10 minutes per-day can have profound effects.

HeartMath Inner Balance-Lightning Sensor for Iphone5 and Ipad Air

Muse Headband

This headband is pretty amazing. I've only logged 10 hours of so since purchasing it, but using the headband before breakfast, dinner and bed has been a major help in my digestion and cravings. It's slightly more complicated to use than HeartMath, but is a nice feedback device that may resonate with you in a different way.

Muse: The Brain Sensing Headband – Black


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Related Video: Deborah Rozman, PhD- Using HeartMath to Conquer Food Cravings, Depression and Anxiety

Learn More About Digestion and the Vagus Nerve


There are two divisions of your nervous system running on autopilot in the background: the parasympathetic nervous system, or the rest and digest system, and the sympathetic nervous system, the “fight or flight” response. We are hardwired to survive as if we lived in prehistoric times when life expectancy was contingent upon surviving predators, starvation, and infection. When prehistoric man was fighting or fleeing from a life-threatening altercation, our nervous system pivoted out of rest and digest status (parasympathetic dominance) into fight or flight mode (sympathetic dominance).

Figure 2. The autonomic nervous system governs many body functions. The key to fat loss and blood sugar balance is to tip the balance of this system in direction of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Such a shift in nervous system signaling drives the adrenals to release more stress hormones, which increases blood sugar, constricts blood vessels, raises blood pressure, and speeds heart rate. The shift also reallocates nutrients and blood to the lungs, heart, muscle tissue, and brain. Digestion, muscle building, production of growth and sex hormones—all of which are activated by the vagus nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system—come to a screeching halt, since these activities aren’t critical to survival during life-or-death situations. However, that’s not true in the long term.

Further Reading

Belly Fat Effect: The Real Secret About How Your Diet, Intestinal Health, and Gut Bacteria Help You Burn Fat

Further Reading: Chapter 8 of Belly Fat Effect unveils the whole story about the circadian clock system and metabolism, fat burning, appetite, and much more.

  1. So, here’s how I do this “40 chews” thing. I can’t count the chews, or I wind up hearing counting in my head all day long. I use the stopwatch function on my phone or watch, depending on how discreet I want to be. I allow a full minute for each bite I take. I chew for 40 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds … then repeat until the meal is done. Doing this is OCD enough … but thankfully doesn’t induce incessant counting in my brain! Works very, very well to slow me down and get me to chew thoroughly. I love your show, thanks for doing it.

    • Hi there Pam,

      I really appreciate your feedback!

      It’s not that you need to count every chew; just being mindful of what you’re doing while you’re eating, slowing down and eating with others (oh, and being the last one to finish while in a group) is a great step in the right direction.

      Science found that sweet-spot in terms of the number of chews, but counting each chew is not practical! Just being aware and more mindful is the take-home tip here 🙂



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