Why Looking Like a Cow Might Help Your Weight (Just A Little)

I have a long, sordid history with chewing. Gum, that is. I adored that glistening pink Bazooka bubblegum as a kid. I stashed it in my desk at home so my mother wouldn't confiscate it, as she was fed up with mounting dentist bills. (I could have qualified for an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records with the number of cavities I racked up each year. And don't even get me started on the condition of my teeth when I became a teenager. My cavities multiplied faster than my acne did.) 


But I continued to chew it. Then I learned how to pop it, and was drawn in deeper and deeper. And how about those fun bubblegum blowing contests? Sheer bliss.

"You look like a cow chewing its cud." My father.

"You’re gonna swallow it and die!" My sister.

"Leave me alone." Me.

I continued on the path of gum addiction until one day when I came down with the worst case of – not cavities – but TMJ. My jaw ached so much that a steady diet of Advil and warm compresses barely eased the pain. The doctor advised me to stop all the gum chewing (a major culprit) and avoid any hard, chewy foods like bagels. Then I started noticing other people around me chewing gum and guess what? They looked like cows, too.

So, I stopped. My jaw healed, for the most part. (TMJ can happen too, if you grind your teeth in your sleep or clench your jaw when you get stressed. I do both.)  

But I must confess that I return to gum chewing occasionally and still keep some (sugarless) stashed away in my desk in case I get hungry while I’m working. It somehow satisfies my temptation to nosh and cuts down on my trips to the kitchen. (And I try to confine my gum-chewing to the privacy of my house because after all these years, that cow comment still sticks.)

I’m not so wrong, after all. Research from the University of Rhode Island found that gum chewers consume 68 fewer calories at lunch, without compensating by eating more later in the day. They also found that chewing gum helped satisfy cravings and resist fattening treats. I also read somewhere that chewing gum actually burns calories- but the number is so negligible I don’t think it’s really worth mentioning.

So, let's see…if you cut 50 calories a day by chewing gum because it cuts down on your consumption and you burn calories by the act of chewing it, it adds up. Try chewing it while you're preparing dinner and you’re tempted to "just pick." Those little nibbles seem harmless but before you’re done, they add up, too - into lots of calories.

It's a small trick, I know; but hey, I'll take what I can get. But I'm still not planning on going back to being a hard-core gum chewer, as sugarless gum contains artificial sweeteners, which I like to stay away from.

And since I shun red meat, I'm not a big fan of cows, anyhow.

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