Ever look up from a meal only to realize everyone you’re eating with is still only half done? Odds are you’re eating too quickly. And eating quickly isn’t just a recipe for feeling a bit awkward as you stare down your empty plate. It can also short-circuit your attempts to eat smaller portions and lose weight. What’s worse: If you tend to eat until you feel full, too, the effects could be even worse.
A study in the British Medical Journal found that both eating until you feel full and eating quickly can contribute to weight gain, but the two factors together have an even greater combined effect on the number of calories you consume, your weight, and your BMI. A second study found that eating quickly was also associated with higher rates of metabolic disorder; in short, the effects of this habit should not be swept under the rug.
How fast is too fast? It’s generally been found that it takes about 20 minutes for your body to feel full. So if you’re finishing your meal in less than 20 minutes, you’re probably going to overeat before you can even realize it. Scientists believe this is because when we eat, gut hormones are released in the gastrointestinal tract, which signal to the brain that it’s time to stop eating. This is why it’s particularly harmful if we eat quickly and rely on that fullness signal to indicate when we should stop eating (as opposed to selecting a smaller portion and eating only this portion).
Ready to reform your quick-eating ways? Here are a few hacks to get you started.
Put your fork down between bites. It sounds crazy, but often, we’re piling up another bite of food when the last one’s only just made it to our mouths. Instead, take a bite, then put your fork down. Swallow completely before picking your fork back up.
Drink water. Sipping water between bites is another easy way to force yourself to spread those bites out further.
Challenge yourself to smaller bites. If your fast eating is a result of scarfing down a meal in just a few bites, challenge yourself to take the smallest bites you possibly can. You may feel silly at first, but over time you can recalibrate yourself to taking more average-sized bites.
Choose a smaller portion beforehand. Particularly at the beginning of the weight loss process, it’s difficult to rely on your internal satiety indicators, as you may have trained your body to very large portion or high-sugar foods. If this is the case, measure your meal out in advance, so you can’t possibly plow through more than you mean to.
Practice mindful eating. The practice of mindful eating is a great way to train yourself to take in and enjoy all the sensations of your meal. As a result, you’ll also train yourself to eat more slowly, fully taking in the flavor of your food.
Remove distractions. Eating in front of your computer, TV, or smartphone is one of the easiest ways to get through a whole meal barely noticing what you’re eating. Try putting away all mealtime distractions for just a week, and see how it impacts your eating speed.
Mellow out your meal space. If you’re feeling rushed, stressed, or emotional while you’re eating (even if it’s subconscious!) you may rush through your meal. If you’re feeling hectic at mealtime, try dimming the lighting, playing calming music, or breathing deeply before you dig in.
Tell us: Are you a fast eater? Ever tried any of these ways to slow your pace?