Goofing around online, I spot a cool-looking kitchen gadget: a fork that could be a love-child of IKEA and Apple. I click on the video and nearly spit out my lunch (soup, by the way, not a fork in sight). The HAPIfork is an electronic tool that helps you monitor your eating habits, alerting you with indicator lights and gentle vibrations when you eat too fast. It tracks “fork servings”, which are the round-trip motions between your plate and your mouth. The device also measures the time it takes to eat your meal and the total number of “fork servings” per minute.
Originally designed for medical use, the machine-washable utensil has Bluetooth capability and a built-in USB port for easy connection to your smartphone or computer. Simply upload the forking data to your online dashboard to see how you’re doing. It comes with a HAPILABS app plus a coaching program to help you modify your eating behavior.
You don’t need to be on a macrobiotic diet to understand we ought to eat more slowly. Slow Control, HAPIfork’s inventor, has an entire website dedicated to the science behind digestion. Negative effects related to speed-eating include:
- Weight gain: We feel full after 20 minutes. Eat fast, and you miss the chance to feel sated. You’ll eat more.
- Digestive problems: Eating quickly means chewing poorly, which in turn burdens the digestive tract.
- Gastric reflux: Fast eating is linked to gastric reflux.
- Postoperative complications: Eating more slowly reduces stress on weakened tissues.
No question most of us inhale our food. And conceptually, the HAPIfork could aid in raising awareness of individual patterns of food consumption. But seriously, who’s going to use these gizmos?
Obesity and diabetes are globally epidemic, the scales have tipped where more people now die from overeating than from starvation. Increasingly, what we eat doesn’t require a fork: consider the staples of western fast food now infiltrating Middle Eastern urban cuisine: pizza, burgers, fries, big soda, fried chicken. We wage hand-to-hand combat with our modern menus.
And don’t just blame the Americans. You could spend a lifetime in Jordan’s shawarma shacks, sweets shops, cafes and falafel carts and never touch a fork.
The fast food industry in Saudi is booming, expected to hit $4.5 billion (that’s a literally gross annual figure) in the next 2 years. Coupling those foodstuffs with a physically inactive population, use Qatar as example, presents a dietary challenge that’s far too heavy a lift for clever gadget like this.
Unless we wake up to healthy eating habits, we’re all forked.
Image of HAPIfork from HAPILABS.