Do You Eat Too Fast?: Tips to Slow Down

By Ali Luke
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One tip that most of us could use to boost our health efforts is to eat slowly. If you were ever told off as a child for gobbling your food, or not for chewing properly, then you were being given good advice – there’s a lot of benefits from taking your time over a meal…

Better digestion

Digestion starts when we place food into our mouth: chewing more thoroughly, and eating slowly gives the body plenty of time to break down the food we eat. This means that slowing down your eating can help prevent you from feeling bloated, or from suffering from indigestion, after a meal.

Eating fewer calories

If you eat slowly, you’re also likely to eat less than when you scoff down a meal as quickly as possible. Your stomach takes about twenty minutes to register that it’s full – so if you don’t take at least twenty minutes over your dinner, you’ll probably keep on eating long after you’ve had enough. (See Eat Slowly – It Really Does Work for details of a study on this.)

Enjoying your food more

Let’s face it – if you’re a bit of a foodie at heart, one of the worst things about dieting is simply that you don’t get to eat so much! But you can prolong the pleasure you get from a great meal by taking your time over it. Give yourself time to really savour that delicious dessert, if it’s a once-a-week treat. Taste and enjoy every mouthful of your dinner: when you’ve spent half an hour cooking, it’s a shame to gobble down the results in minutes.

It’s easy to list all the benefits of eating slowly, but harder to actually do it. All too often I fall into the bad habit of eating in front of my computer, or eating mindlessly without really registering what’s going into my mouth. Some great ways to slow down your eating are:

Use a knife and fork

If you tend to shovel things into your mouth as fast as possible, start using a knife and fork. Sit at the table, not on the sofa, and put your cutlery down in between mouthfuls. (If you’re eating something like a sandwich, put it down each time you’ve taken a bite.) Another good tip is to take a sip of water regularly during your meal – which will force you to put your fork down.

Chat to others as you eat

Try not to eat a meal alone. Food is best enjoyed as part of a social event – even if that’s something as simple as having lunch with a colleague, or dinner with your spouse. Don’t eat in front of the TV in the evenings: sit with your family and encourage everyone to chat about their day. You can’t talk and eat at the same time.

Don’t read or work while eating

If you try to work whilst eating lunch, you’ll hardly notice the food going in. It’s hard to concentrate on the flavors and textures of food while your mind’s on that important document for the boss. Don’t eat breakfast whilst reading your favorite blogs (I’m often guilty of this!) – take the time to enjoy ten minutes of computer-free peace while you munch away on your cereal. Your body will thank you for it, and your mind will too.

Do you eat too fast? Do you have any tips on slowing down? Have you become more aware of the speed at which you eat whilst you’ve been dieting?

24 Comments

  1. Keith

    I’m guilty of shoveling food into my mouth as fast as possible. I have to consciously take additional bites before swallowing the bolus. As everyone already said, it’s probably because of the fast-paced lifestyle we have here in the US.

    Now, if only I could comfortably will myself to walk slower.

    Reply
  2. ian

    I just polished off a triple whopper, large fri and coke in about 2-3 minutes while reading this LOL! My metabolism is so high that whatever I eat I never gain a pound. But I eat fast food about once a month so even though I could eat a lot of it, I stay healthy, and only enjoy it once in a while!

    Reply
  3. Cyber Rainbow

    good suggestions. also, no soda, and no refined sugar.

    Reply
  4. LINDY

    i think eating whilst reading makes me consume more time on my food .it really works . another thing that has worked for me is nibbling on nuts slowly in between meals .

    Reply
  5. fusionetics

    Have a look at this http://www.bestfatburningfood.com

    Reply
  6. figsandolives

    I’m really taking this article to heart.
    I have consciously started eating slowly. Or rather, chewing long enough so that the food in my mouth has turned into a puree. I can attest, that my enjoyment has increased, my satiety is easier to attain, I don’t seem to get hungry again an hour later. It’s very hard to do, I’m such a classic speed eater, I end up overeating b/c the meal finished too fast. Especially if you cooked the meal yourself.. and to wolf it down in 5 mins is just unpleasant LOL.
    Also, I have been finding it a little meditative to chew so much (minimum of 20 to 50 chews per bite).
    I hope it will get easier with time.. I don’t know why I feel the need to rush, when I’m actually not rushed, or need to be anywhere…

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  7. Lauren

    Great article. It takes your body at least 20 minutes to let your brain know that you are full, so if you eat slowly you have less chance of overeating.

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  8. Just Smart Living

    I think for many of us eating too quickly is a direct result of an over packed schedule. We should all make a conscious effort to take a break and eat slowly. Not only will we eat less, but we’ll actually enjoy our food. Let’s face it we all can use a break or two. 🙂

    Reply
  9. mirc

    a little eating

    Reply
  10. Supplements

    Eating too fast is totally something you have to be more conscious of. It is SO EASY when you are super hungry to just shovel the food down your throat and not even notice you are over consuming calories.

    Reply
  11. monica

    Zorro – I do the same thing with the chopsticks! That’s an interesting story about your Thanksgiving; there’s actually a restaurant in London where diners eat in pitched black darkness. Interesting concept… I’d love to try it.

    Reply
  12. lila

    Yeah, that was always my problem. I started doing hypnosis and the mindfulness really helps me to slow down and I’ve been losing weight pretty steadily since then. but I know that I used to wolf down food and there are still times when I forget and do it anyway.
    http://www.lilasweightlossblog.blogspot.com

    Reply
  13. Ali Hale

    Good point, Methusulah – this is probably a case of different stroke for different folks! I tend to get engrossed in what I’m reading and stuff in food without noticing… but I can see how it would work differently for others.

    Reply
  14. Zorro

    i once went to a thanksgiving dinner where we all sat down … then the host explained that we would be doing things a little bit differently this year … we had to memorize where things were on the table and then we all put on blindfolds. we enjoyed the entire meal this way. it was bizarre, very funny and thoroughly mind blowing. the food tasted better than anything i’ve ever had. we ate much slower as the lack of site really made us savor the taste. it made us communicate far more and there were a lot of comments like “anyone know where the sauce is?” and lots and lots of laughter (and some spills).

    one way i have of slowing down on a daily basis is to eat EVERYTHING with chopsticks. i love it. although i am having some difficulty with soup.

    Reply
  15. Spectra

    I used to be a really fast eater, mostly because growing up in my family, if you didn’t get to the Nutty Bars or Oatmeal Creme Pies first, Mom would have eaten them all first. So I often went into my room with a couple packs of Little Debbie cakes and would scarf them down before anyone would find out. Now, I still sometimes struggle with eating slowly, but I tell myself that no one is going to take my food from me…I can eat as slowly as I want to.

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  16. Blake

    I sometimes eat really fast and my wife has to remind me to slow down. When I do eat slower I definitely eat less because I realized that I am full.

    Reply
  17. monica

    I’m all about slow food. You can read my post In Praise of Slow Eating which describes how I came to love it. First there was the Indian buffet, then there was the tummy ache, then there was the conscious effort to slow down. And so it was. And I am now 40lb lighter and enjoy food more than ever.

    Reply
  18. Duane

    I agree with this. When I was growing up, before I went into school, I would eat slowly, but after third grade I started to eat fast, because there was no other option. 20 years later, when I have the option to eat slow, often times I’m still the first one done at any meal.
    I don’t care how you look at it, schools are not good on the overall health of the children; but that’s a different topic altogether.

    Reply
  19. stacey

    We live in such a fast paced world, and everything seems to move faster now, eating included. I have found that when I do have the time, I really like to savour my food. I’ve found that I get more out of the food I eat rather than eat more food. I really enjoy the look of the food, then the aroma, and then the taste and texture. In fact, I’ve been doing this so often now that I can even do it (somewhat) when I am eating on the run. Try it, it will really change your relationship to the food. Start with one meal a week where you have time, and move up from there.

    Reply
  20. amyp

    I totally agree with this, it is a daily struggle to get my 8-y-o son to put his fork down between bites of food. If I walk away from the table to get a forgotten item, his plate will be bare when I get back.

    HIs school lunch is no favor to this behavior. By the time the kids sit down to eat, they literally have less than 10 minutes to finish their food, or they’ll cut into their already-too-short recess. My sons invited me to join them for lunch – I managed to eat my 1/2 sandwich, no drink, no veggies before they signaled for recess. How is a elementary school-aged kid supposed to learn healthy eating habits while being herded and stuffed like cattle?

    Reply
  21. John Sifferman - Burn The Fat

    This reminds me of something I read about Indian monks not too long ago. They were quoted as saying, “when you eat, eat.”

    There is some wisdom in that. Likewise, when you work, work. When you play, play. etc.

    I have always been a naturally slow eater, it was just the way my family did it growing up. The military changed that pretty quick when I only had 5 minutes to garble down a tray full of food. I’m back to enjoying my meals and eating slowly again now, though.

    John Sifferman NSCA-CPT

    Reply
  22. staci

    i realize that eating slowly is better for you all around. however, since i dont have time for that, i usually half or quarter whatever it is i’m eating. i stop after i eat each segment for about 4 to 5 minutes while sipping my drink; if i feel like i want another segment, i go for it, but if i feel slightly full and its only been minutes- clearly, i’m done! perhaps not the very best method in the world but i feel it has done me well.

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  23. personal trainer

    Busy lifestyles = faster eating. People rarely have three square meals a day – it’s grab what you can, when you can and guzzle it down as fast as you can! Asking people to do anything slowly these days is going to be a challenge. Everyone wants things done quickly… and fast sells! People want fast food, but they also want fast weight loss. This article is so right, but it will fall on deaf ears.

    Reply
  24. Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later

    I disagree with the last point. Since I often find myself eating lunch alone, I actually find that having something else to during the eating process makes me eat more slowly – especially reading on the internet. Otherwise I gobble my food because I am keen to finish so that I can get on with doing other things….such as reading on the internet!

    Reply