We live in a fast-paced world where multi-tasking is expected, and meals are often rushed. So many people eat on the go or are distracted in front of a screen, but eating this way removes pleasure and can adversely impact your health.
Mindfulness, the practice of staying present at the moment, has been around for centuries, but more recently, it has been linked to how we eat. Eating slowly and mindfully is linked to better digestion, allows your body and brain to catch up with how much you are consuming, and can help you feel satisfied longer after a meal.
Slowing down is a relatively simple way to support your weight and metabolic health. Let's examine how eating slowly can benefit your health, why people tend to eat quickly, and nine tips to help you slow down.
Why Do I Eat So Fast?
Eating patterns vary from person to person, but you may eat too fast for multiple reasons. Still, they all stem back to being out of touch with your hunger and your body's feelings. Reasons can include:
- Waiting too long between meals. If you're hungry, you're much less likely to pace yourself and more likely to wolf down whatever's in front of you.
- Lack of time. Back-to-back meetings, school pick-ups, after-school activities, and work deadlines; it's enough to make you breathless thinking about it, let alone leave time to sit down for a meal. Unfortunately, eating on the go (or entirely skipping meals) is a reality for many people.
- Distraction. Between the phone, laptop, and TV, getting lost in front of a screen and not even realizing how much you've eaten is easy.
- Emotional or bored eating. Stress, sadness, or even mindless snacking can leave you eating far more than you need.
- Sharing a meal with others who eat fast. Spending time with quick eaters can influence how quickly you eat as you try to keep up or match the other person's pace.
- Habit. Eating quickly can become a hard habit to break if you've done it for years. But just like any other eating habit, you can make changes with practice.
Does Eating Fast Make You Gain Weight?
The reality is that eating fast puts you at risk for overeating and unwanted weight gain. In addition, it takes about 20 minutes to register fullness, so speed eating does not allow your body to recognize this feeling of satiety.
Studies link obesity risk with fast eaters (with or without blood sugar dysregulation).¹ One study examining adult men for eight years found an association between fast eating and weight gain.² Similar results were seen in a three-year study examining fast eating and weight gain risk.³
Eating faster is also linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that increase your risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.⁴
A recent systematic review and meta-analysis that included research on more than 400,000 subjects found fast eating significantly increases the risks of metabolic syndrome, central obesity (fat around your waistline), high blood pressure, low HDL (protective) cholesterol, high triglycerides, and elevated fasting blood sugar compared to slow eating.⁵
Does Eating Slower Help You Lose Weight?
If eating fast is linked to gaining weight, does eating slower help you lose weight? It could. Taking time with your meal may help increase satiety—the feeling of fullness—which could mean you take in fewer calories because you feel satisfied sooner.
Appetite and satiety signals are controlled by a complex hormonal system that sends messages to your brain to eat or stop eating. For example, peptide YY (PYY) is a hormone that tells your brain how full you are, and ghrelin makes you feel hungry.⁶
Eating too fast can interfere with how your brain receives these signals. Eating slowly is important because it gives these hormones time to kick in, reducing hunger and appetite—so you eat less at mealtime.⁷
Calories are only one piece of the weight loss equation, but they matter. If you usually eat fast, slowing down may mean you eat just what your body needs.
4 Health Benefits of Eating Slower
Aside from your weight and metabolic health, other benefits of eating slower include:
- Improved digestion. Chewing jump starts the digestion process and slows down how fast you eat.⁸ Slowing down gives your digestive system time to work properly and breaks food down into energy and nutrients you can use.
- Enjoyment of your meal. Eating slower gives you time to savor every bite and appreciate how food tastes and makes you feel.
- More mindful eating. Eating slower allows you to become more aware of how much you're eating, gauge when you're full, and how your food makes you feel.
- Addresses disordered eating habits. Eating slower gives you time to pause and check in with your feelings, making you less likely to overeat without knowing why.
Eating Too Fast? 9 Practical Tips to Help You Slow Down
Breaking down an old habit and building up a new one takes time, and your eating habits are no exception. Here are nine tips on how to slow down eating and enjoy your meals:
- Think about why. Understanding why you do something in the first place can help you make a successful change. If it concerns your daily schedule, you should block out time in your calendar and find ready-to-eat options. If it's related to how the rest of your family eats, there may be ways to encourage them to slow down too.
- Chew at least 20 times per bite of food. It may feel odd, but one study found the more participants chewed their food, the less food they took in (nearly 15% less food for the group who chewed the most).⁹ Chewing can also help if eating fast causes bloating or other digestive issues.
- Turn off screens. Mindlessly eating is easy when you have a TV or computer in front of you. Turn off the screens so you can pay better attention to the meal in front of you.
- Drink water between bites. Sipping water between bites helps you stay hydrated and forces you to pause between bites. Drinking water with your meal may feel strange (and a little filling), but over time it can become a habit and just something you automatically do.
- Put your fork down. Like drinking water, telling yourself to place your fork on the table while chewing your food keeps you present and forces you to slow down. It's easy to continue taking bites if your fork is already in your hand but putting it down helps you stay mindful.
- Avoid undereating or skipping meals. For example, you've had a jam-packed day, grabbed a bar and coffee for breakfast, a handful of almonds and an apple for lunch, and suddenly it's 5 pm, and you're starving. What happens? You speed through a giant dinner and probably keep eating throughout the evening because your body is playing calorie catch-up. Make time to eat and consider it as essential as any other appointment or meeting you have throughout the day.
- Include harder-to-eat foods. Fibrous foods or crunchy snacks may take a bit more effort to eat, so they can help you learn how to slow down. One study found that harder food textures decreased total energy intake by 16 percent and dropped the eating rate by 32 percent compared to softer foods.¹⁰
- Experiment with mindful eating. Mindful eating means knowing how your food looks, tastes, and makes you feel. Try to examine the colors and textures of your food. As you chew, consider the flavors and how your body responds.
- Practice gratitude. It may sound a little "woo woo," but adding a bit of gratitude can help. Think about how each bite nourishes your body and how food helps fuel your daily activities. Gratitude can keep you present and remind you how important it is to slow down and savor your meals.
Learn More About Nutrition and Mindful Eating with Signos' Expert Advice
Eating slower can be an effective way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, improve your digestion, and even reduce how much you eat, but will it work for your body?
If you find motivation from seeing how food affects your body in real-time, using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) with Signos can help you make informed decisions about how and when you eat.
Signos can show you how your blood sugar responds to your meal speed and illustrate exactly what happens. You can connect the dots to how what you eat impacts how you feel and watch how the numbers change based on personalized feedback.
Find out if Signos is a good fit for you by taking a quick quiz here.
Get more information about weight loss, glucose monitors, and living a healthier life
Topics discussed in this article:
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