You’re eating too fast. Slow down.

>> The benefits of slow eating <<

Recently I asked people on my email list what their biggest problems were when it comes to their health and several answered that it was stress in combination with digestive issues.

Maybe you were among these people, maybe you weren’t.

Maybe you suffer from digestive issues, maybe you don’t.

No matter what, you will still benefit from this article, because anybody, even without digestive issues can benefit from slowing down while eating.

This article is the first one of a series I’m going to write on this topic because I think a lot of people will benefit from this.

What I personally love about this idea, is that it’s not an additional habit you need to fit into your already full day, but just a modification of an old habit.

Why are we eating too fast in the first place?

Our meals have gotten shorter and many of you will probably agree with that. No argument there.

There might be several reasons for that. First of all, we eat more “to-go” food. Everything is “to-go” these days. I’m waiting for the day when a steak becomes a to-go meal if it isn’t already.

Another factor that influences our eating speed is the texture of our food. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that our food has become softer. Thinking about burgers, especially those served at fast food joints, the word “soft” always pops into my mind.

The softer the food, the less chewing is required to swallow it.

One thing that hasn’t to do with the food itself, but influences our eating speed is stress. We feel stressed all the time, often unnecessarily, and always seek ways to reduce the time we spend with things.

Eating is one of the first things that people are reducing their time on, because “it doesn’t matter anyway”. Boy, we couldn’t be more wrong.

Why eating speed is so important. 

First of all, eating too fast will increase the probability of weight gain. Several studies confirmed this. (1, 2, 3)

The main reason for this is the combination of too much food and too little eating time. In our society food is abundant and our portion size has increased over the last couple of decades.

portion size eating too fast

(Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute)

 

The other thing, besides portion size, is the eating time itself. Your brain needs around 20 minutes to send signals to your body that you are full. If you take less time than that, you won’t notice you’re full and will increase the amount of food you eat & the probability of overeating.

Reflux is an issue as well. Although studies on acid reflux disease are ambiguous, some of them found a connection between faster eating and an increase in reflux. (4)

Another negative consequence of eating too fast is that we swallow more air, which causes bloating and gas. Additionally, eating too much food, because you don’t feel full yet, will contribute to feeling bloated.

Additionally, eating too fast will reduce the amount of chewing. This could lead to an improper digestion and makes it harder for the body to digest the food at all. Digestion starts in the mouth, as there are enzymes that start to break down the food. If you don’t give these enzymes enough time, the digestive process will be impaired.

All these reasons are about your health and I personally think that they are quite compelling. I’d like to mention two other reasons, that are not directly connected to your health, but are important as well.

When you eat too fast you have no chance of enjoying your food, which is a real pity. Food is something amazing and you should enjoy it every time you experience it. I recently read about people who can’t smell or taste and many of them fall into depression because food is a bigger part of most people’s live, but they don’t realise it.

I think that’s really hard and we all should be thankful for our ability to enjoy food and do so on a daily basis.

By eating too fast you’re also adjusting to this fast eating trend. Everybody is eating fast, so it appears to be the “right” thing to do. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Don’t join the majority on this. You know better. It’s not healthy and not human to wolf down all of your meals. Enjoy and embrace your food to the fullest.

The Slow Food Movement, founded in Italy, is only one example of this philosophy.

How to slow down while eating

This is not about eating less food or starving yourself, which you won’t, but it’s about only eating until you’re not hungry anymore, which most of us don’t do.

There are a few simple tricks you can include into your daily life that could have a major impact on your eating speed and as a consequence on your health.

1. Drink a glass of water before eating.

Sometimes we feel so hungry we feel like we could eat ten pizzas. When this happens to you, slow down. Recognize the feeling and drink a glass of water. Often this will reduce the hunger and make you calmer.

2. A smaller portion.

As I said it’s not about eating less, but serving yourself a smaller portion (at first), could help you to slow down. If you’re still hungry you can get a second serving any time.

Eat your smaller portion and when you’re finished pause for a minute. Think about how full you feel. This will feel weird at first, especially if you’ve never done this before, but don’t worry. Maybe you can’t say how full you feel, but you will learn it.

If you’re still hungry eat some more.

3. Chew your food enough.

As you just read, chewing is really important, especially for your digestion. While the numbers vary a bit, anything between 30 and 40 chews should be fine. This will also feel weird at first, but you get used to it and you will actually enjoy it.

4. Share dinner with friends.

Whenever you’re with the people you like you will naturally slow down and talk to them. You are also likely to reduce your eating speed when you are in good company. Although I don’t like the aspect of not focusing on the food, if you’re eating too fast, in general, this might be a good thing for you.

5. The 20-minute rule.

Make it a rule to take 20 minutes for every meal. This will give you the opportunity to slow down and de-stress. It will also give your brain the opportunity to send the fullness signal in time.

Twenty minutes is not that much time and you will start to enjoy these little time-outs from your day.

6. Put down your fork while chewing.

I don’t like to do this to be honestly, but I read that it works for several people. By putting down your fork while chewing you avoid putting additional food into your mouth while your still busy chewing the previous food.

This could help you with chewing enough and slowing down in general.

Eating too fast is really bad for our health and our life in general. It might take some time to adjust to slower eating, but trust me it’s worth it.

I personally love to eat and to do so slowly, but sometimes I catch myself on eating too fast. When I realise it, I lay down my fork, think about my food and what I enjoy most about it and continue eating slower. Much slower.

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