I happened to glance at the clock before I took my first bite — 12:24 p.m. After I penned a few lines and gobbled down my turkey sandwich with a Honeycrisp apple on the side, I looked again — 12:30 p.m.
I had eaten my entire lunch in six minutes flat!
Not surprisingly, racing through my meal left me feeling unsatisfied and even more on edge. In our go-go-go society, it’s easy to forget that when it comes to eating, there’s no prize for finishing first.
If you tend to inhale your food at lightning speed like I did that day, here are four compelling reasons to put on the brakes.
Four healthy reasons to eat more slowly
1. To achieve or maintain a healthy weight
Growing research shows a connection between the pace at which a person eats and his body weight. For example, a 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that women who ate slowly took in fewer calories than those who ate quickly. Similarly, a 2011 study by researchers at the University of Rhode Island found that people with high Body Mass Indexes ate significantly faster than those with lower BMIs.
2. To keep your brain and belly in sync
One explanation for the above research is that the feeling of fullness and satiety has as much to do with our brains as it does with our stomachs. Common wisdom says that it takes about 20 minutes from the time we begin eating for our brains to send out signals that we’ve had enough.
A 2010 study tested this idea, comparing participants who ate a bowl of ice cream in 30 minutes to those who ate the same amount in five. The results showed that those who ate their dessert more slowly did in fact release more of the “fullness hormones” than those who sped through it. The bottom line? When you scarf down your food, your brain doesn’t tell you you’re full until after you’ve already overeaten.
3. To aid in digestion
Eating more slowly translates into chewing your food more, and thorough chewing is key for good digestion. As explained by WHFoods.org, run by the George Mateljan Foundation, the body’s digestive process actually begins in the mouth, not the stomach or intestines as commonly thought. Our saliva contains important enzymes that help break down food, so it’s important that each bite comes into plenty of contact with the stuff (gross but true!) Additionally, when we swallow our sustenance in too large of pieces, our bodies can’t extract all the nutrients.
4. To make eating more fun
I’d be lying if I said I was able to enjoy that turkey sandwich I devoured in less time than it takes to say “yum.” Speed-eating leaves little opportunity to take pleasure in our food; we barely even notice its taste and texture before it’s gone. But when we slow down and actually pay attention to our bagel for breakfast or bowl of pasta for dinner, we’re better able to savor the mealtime experience.
Have I convinced you to eat more like the tortoise and less like the hare? If so, look for my next post with 6 easy ways to make your mealtimes last longer.