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A new study suggests your eating speed could be the key to losing weight

At one point or another, the vast majority of us have taken on intense workout plans and changed the way we eat entirely in a spirited, yet often doomed, attempt to lose weight. It's been six weeks since you kicked off the New Year by paying out the nose for that gym membership, and if you're still going, then legitimately: kudos to you.

Losing weight is hard, and your level of exercise and activity is only one half of any decent quest to shed a few pounds; without the right diet plan, you're going to waste all those squats and sets, and in some cases, even gain weight. But sometimes, you can cut out all the carbs, fats and oils, eat at the right times, but you won't see the results you expect. So why is that?

As we all know, weight loss is a mystery wrapped in an enigma, but a new study published in the journal BMJ Open has a new theory to your so far futile mission to lose weight. They theorize that not only is balance and portion control vital to moving up a notch or two on your belt, but the very speed at which you eat your salad or your grilled chicken could be having an effect on your weight loss.

This study looked at over 60,000 test subjects from Japan who had been diagnosed with diabetes, analyzing their health records between the years 2008 and 2013. They quizzed these participants on how quickly they ate and asked them about a number of less-than-ideal dieting habits, like eating less than two hours before bed, skipping breakfast or indulging in some between-meal snacks.

Then, the test subjects' weight was assessed using BMI and waist circumference. Here's what they found: 22,070 people were self-identified fast eaters, while 33,455 ate their food at a normal speed and around 4,000 classed themselves as slow eaters.

But here's where it gets interesting: after taking account of other potential factors, the study concluded that those who ate at a regular pace were 29 percent less likely to be obese than their fast-eating counterparts, and when it came to slow eaters, that number rose to a whopping 42 percent. Slow eaters also a reduction in waist circumference, seeing a decrease of 0.41 cm compared to those who wolfed down their food, while regular eaters saw a 0.21 cm decrease.

Neat, huh? Next, the researchers took a look at the eating habits that are generally associated with increased waistlines, and they found that snacking after dinner, as well as eating less than two hours before bed more than three times a week, were linked to higher risk of being overweight. Curiously, skipping breakfast was not.

Overall, the researchers are pretty happy with their results, saying: "Changes in eating habits can affect obesity, BMI, and waist circumference. Interventions aimed at reducing eating speed may be effective in preventing obesity and lowering the associated health risks."

They were quick, however, to state that despite living with diabetes, the individuals were “relatively health-conscious individuals” who routinely went for health checkups, so if you're not one of those "less health-conscious people", then it might be worth taking these results with a pinch of salt. Eaten very slowly, of course.

Either way, if you're doing everything right but still struggling to lose weight, why not give slow eating a go? As we all know, slow and steady wins the race, and even if it doesn't work, you can take time to appreciate the thing that matters most in life: food.