Eating too fast after bariatric surgery can be bad for your health. It’s not just about how much you eat, but the pace you eat that can affect your overall diet and weight loss goals. One essential lesson we want patients to know is they need to have a good relationship with food and exercise. That’s why we want to encourage slow eating when it comes to food.

It takes 20 seconds for your brain to know that you are full. Eating too fast won’t allow your body to have the time to tell you what’s going on, so we recommend chewing your food and learning to listen to your body’s cues.

Many studies have shown that people who eat fast have a larger appetite and are more likely to overeat. This results from not spending enough time chewing your food, which creates awareness around eating and alleviates feelings of hunger. Similarly, the longer we chew our food, the more time our brains have to release signals that convey fullness. This is one of the reasons your bariatric surgeon and dietitian will recommend you thoroughly chew your food. Other reasons are to avoid food getting stuck in your smaller pouch and to maximize food breakdown and nutrient absorption.

Consequences of Eating Too Fast after Bariatric Surgery

The body sends many signals back and forth from the stomach to the brain. If you don’t take time enough to listen to those signals, you’re going to overeat or eat the wrong things. You may also fall prey to some classic troubles that will make you gain weight. Other consequences of not listening to your body include diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea. Signals from the body can come in one of two significant ways: electrical or hormonal.

Eating Too Fast after Bariatric Surgery: Electrical signals

Electrical signals are very, very quick. Electrical signals originate from the stomach and send messages to the brain—transmitted by neurons—to relay a sense of hunger or fullness. If you touch a burner, you’re going to know very quickly that it’s hot. An electrical signal goes from your fingertips to your brain, which will make you pull back your hand. You immediately know what’s going on.

These electrical signals will secrete Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, which is regulated by food intake. Combined with metabolic signals such as blood glucose, the body responds to these electrical signals to identify satiety levels.

Eating Too Fast after Bariatric Surgery: Hormonal signals

Hormonal signals are a little slower; they take more time. There’s a stretch of the stomach lining when you put food into your stomach. The stretching of the stomach promotes a signal that hormones are made. Ghrelin and leptin are the two hormonal signals that play a role in satiety. Ghrelin signals hunger, and leptin signals fullness. They work together to regulate food intake, blood sugar, and weight.

These packaged proteins are put together, delivered to the bloodstream, and then they travel to the brain. The signals are processed in enough concentration in the brain to tell you what’s going on. You have eaten, now it’s time to stop.

But, if you are eating too fast after bariatric surgery, you can ignore the signals that you are becoming full and instead find yourself in a situation where you have gorged yourself and feel stuffed. Slowing down your eating allows your brain a chance to learn what your body is trying to tell you. It helps you be able to eat better foods in more appropriate quantities and ultimately helps you lose weight and stay healthy long-term after bariatric surgery.

This article was originally published on Bariatric Centers of America’s blog.