Why You Should Take Your Time When Eating

by Tom Ewer

I have historically been an astonishingly fast eater. It has at times been a point of pride for me (for some bizarre reason). I’d always be the first to finish at dinnertime when I was a kid.

However, it was nothing to be proud of, because there are no benefits to eating fast. On the other hand, eating slowly is only ever a good thing.

According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, eating food more slowly can lead to greater feelings of fullness and satisfaction.

Each subject of the study ate a serving of ice cream on two separate occasions. The only difference was the speed at which they ate the ice cream: the first time in five minutes and the second time in thirty minutes. The study concluded that when subjects savored the ice cream of the course of thirty minutes, they felt fuller and more satisfied than when they ate it in a mere five minutes. (I don’t know how the ice cream didn’t melt into a gloopy mess and turn into more of a drink, but far be it from me to question science.)

I can see some logical sense behind this, but the effect wasn’t solely psychological – it was proven that a higher level of hunger-regulating hormones were produced when the subjects ate the ice cream over a prolonged period. To put it another way, taking longer to eat the food gave the body more time to tell the brain that it was full.

This phenomenon has been discovered in study after study. And when it comes to proving the benefits of eating slowly, Kathleen Melanson, University of Rhode Island Professor of Nutrition is the queen. Most notably, in a 2007 study she found that eating more slowly led a test group to consume less calories than their control group counterpart (who were encouraged to eat fast). The average calories consumed between the two groups differed by a whopping ~10%.

To put that in perspective, an average adult male consuming 10% less than required to maintain his existing body shape would theoretically lose 26lbs in a year. Just by eating more slowly.

Eating slowly isn’t only good for your body shape though. Taking your time when eating – treating it as more of an event than a chore to be rushed – aids digestion and can help to prevent unfortunate…bodily expulsions, shall we say.

And let’s not forget that food is there to be enjoyed. If you’re wolfing it down then that enjoyment is bound to be blunted. Eating more slowly – savoring each mouthful and being acutely aware of the tastes and textures of the food you’re eating – should all be part of the process.

Now all this is well and good, but for many of us, eating slowly isn’t just as simple as telling yourself to do it. It is a habit that can be difficult to break (but certainly not impossible). I have found the following tips to be highly effective:

  • Make time for your meals. Make sure that a suitable period of time is cleared within your schedule for each time you eat.
  • Always sit down at a table to eat. No more TV meals; pay attention to what you’re eating.
  • Eat more foods that are high in fibre. They take longer to chew.
  • Put down your utensils between each bite.
  • Sip some water between each bite. Treat every bite of your meal as a meal in itself.
  • Have a conversation. If you’re eating with others, use meal time as an opportunity to talk as well as eat.
  • Take small bites.
  • Chew more. Count how many times you normally chew and add one extra chew on the end. Add one more chew per week for as long as you’re happy to.

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