Longer mealtime, smaller waistline?

Recently on Twitter (from @MyFitFoods who passed it on from someone else with protected updates) I found a chart which compares time spent eating to the national obesity rate. Now while the criteria used to define obesity may be a bit controversial (it’s a simple, no frills, percentage of the population with a BMI over 30) I think it’s good enough to get an idea of the overall trend.

It’s probably not realistic to expect a perfect trend line with a graph like this, and thus I’m not surprised that there are dots all over the place. Canada, Korea, Japan, Poland, Italy, and all three Scandanavian countries in the survey (Finland, Sweden, and Norway) are all below the trend line, while Mexico, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Turkey are above it. The rest of the countries are either on or close to the trend line.

The US does not fit neatly at all into the trend with a sky-high obesity rate of around 34%. But it is obvious that the graph is trying to show that more time one spends at the table, the less likely one is to become obese.

The stark contrast between the US and Canada is puzzling. The US actually averages slightly longer meals than Canada, yet has the highest obesity rate on the entire chart.

I would be interested in seeing a graph sorted by profession. In my current day job (courier) I rarely have time to actually sit down for even a full half-hour lunch. There are days where I do what I know I really shouldn’t and just grab a bag of chips from the nearest convenience store, where usually the closest thing to a meal is a rather expensive bag of beef jerky (also a frequent “meal” of mine). Not surprisingly, even though I don’t consider myself “obese” it’s possible I would fit the controversial criterion used in this study. (I have no idea what my BMI is, but I’m around 5’11” (180 cm) and weighed in the range of 240 pounds (109 kg) last time I checked.)

This is one reason I want to move on to something else, where I can truly set my own schedule and take meal breaks as long as I want. Really, who doesn’t?