Q: My fiancée eats very fast which makes me eat fast. Telling him to slow down only makes it worse. How bad is this for your health? -- DT, Fairfield

A: Your fiancée may change his ways once he's educated about the health benefits of slower eating.

When you gobble down food, you're not able to chew properly. Digestive enzymes, which break down food chemically, act only on the surface of food particles so chewing is important for increasing the surface area that comes in contact with enzymes. As a result, your body may not be extracting valuable nutrients from the food you eat. Any undigested food consumed will eventually get broken down in your large intestine -- not usually without some nasty indigestion, though.

Convince your loved one that by eating less like a starved alligator, he'll make out with more than just promote proper digestion and absorption.

Studies suggest that eating slowly is a form of weight control. Slow and mindful eating means we actually taste and enjoy our food more so that we require less calories to be satisfied. It takes roughly 20 minutes for hormones released from the digestive tract to provide that all-full signal to the brain.

Here are some strategies to help you slow down at the dinner table:

Pretend you're a food critic and that you must try to remember as much as you can about the food you're eating for a review you'll be writing. Tap into all your senses during meals -- sight, aroma, taste, sound and texture. Learn to be more discerning about your tastes by defining foods with as many words as you can: Is the food flakey, seared, creamy, peppery, moist?

Convince yourself you need to chew a certain number of times. First try chewing at a snail's pace ­-- aim for a ridiculous 50-100 times per bite. It will force you to realize how much of an under-chewer you are. Then go for a realistic 20 to 40 chews per bite.

Use cues to slow your eating pace. Think beyond the usual tip of putting your fork down in between bites. Try eating with toddler-sized silverware, replacing TV at dinner with relaxing music, eating by candlelight or eating outdoors when the weather is nice.

Identify triggers. Rapid eating may be tied to getting too hungry, eating while driving or standing, being faced with certain foods (fast food) or stress.

Chew to appreciate natural foods. Most processed food tastes great for the first few bites but then becomes much less interesting. Natural foods, on the other hand, hold your interest.

Courtney Sansonetti, RD, CDE, CD-N, is a medical nutrition therapist and certified diabetes educator for Rehabilitation Associates, Inc., 1931 Black Rock Turnpike. Email your questions to c.sansonetti@rehabassocinc.com.