Fast eater? Slow down!

Fast eater? Slow down! – Your health is at risk!

As a dietitian who has been living and breathing the world of nutrition for decades, it’s no surprise that I have pretty good eating habits. Pretty excellent, in fact. I eat tons of veggies, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins. I don’t overeat (ok, that’s usually true). I rarely eat sugary or processed foods. But one habit I have never been able to break, with any regularity, is that I tend to eat rather quickly. I’ve counseled countless clients on this very subject, but have a difficult time following the rules myself. The only thing that seems to save me is that all my other habits are well established, in addition to the fact that I exercise regularly.

If you’re a fast eater, however, you should be aware of several health risks. Studies have revealed that people who eat quickly are at a higher risk for obesity as well as diabetes. The most recent diabetes study appeared in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, and involved 172 initially healthy Japanese men and women who were followed over 3 years. Participants were asked to report on several eating habits such as whether they were “fast eaters”, “snacked frequently”, “ate late at night”, “skipped meals”, or “ate out frequently.” By the end of the study, 39 people developed impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), meaning their blood sugar levels were intermittently higher than normal (classified as “pre-diabetic”). Two participants actually went on to develop diabetes. Somewhat surprising was the fact that the only eating habit significantly associated with rising blood sugars was fast eating.

In another landmark study, more than 3,000 Japanese men and women ages 30 to 39 filled out a questionnaire about their eating habits. Half the men and a little more than half the women said they ate until they were full. Slightly fewer than half of both men and women reported that they ate quickly. The findings took into account participants’ ages and activity levels.

  • Those who said they ate quickly and until they were full had a higher total energy intake and a higher body mass index (BMI).
  • They were also three times more likely to be overweight than those who didn’t eat until they were full and didn’t eat quickly.
Slowing it Down

It’s no myth that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is actually full. If you are a fast eater, just think about the excess calories you can take in during a 20-minute time period! This is especially dangerous when you sit down to eat and you’re ravenous.

With that in mind, use the following suggestions to help slow down your pace of eating. Hopefully these tips will help you enjoy your food more, and may help prevent overeating and unwanted weight gain. If you are already overweight, these suggestions may help you shave off a few pounds.

  • Before you eat, focus on your stomach. Be aware of how it feels when you’re truly hungry and your stomach is empty. As you start to eat, pay close attention to what your stomach feels like as it begins to fill with food.
  • Count your chews. Chew every bite a minimum of 10 to 20 times.
  • Eat one small bite at a time. Be sure you have chewed it and swallowed it completely before picking up another bite.
  • Put down your fork or spoon after each bite. This will slow down the automatic response of fork-to-mouth.
  • Close your eyes. Eating will become a whole new experience, and it will take you longer to get the food from your plate to your mouth.
  • Keep portions small. With small portions, you’ll need to get up and go to the kitchen for more. This slows you down a little and helps you know how much you’re actually eating.
  • Use a small spoon or chopsticks. It’s hard to eat too fast with a smaller spoon or a pair of chopsticks.
  • Enjoy and savor every bite. Pay attention to your meal and make the most of it.
  • Reduce distractions. Don’t mindlessly eat while doing something else. If you are reading, watching television, or working at the computer, it can be hard to enjoy your food or pay attention to your fullness cues.
  • Try to stick to an eating schedule. Skipping meals or waiting too long to eat can cause your hunger to soar, making it more likely you will gobble down your food and overeat.
  • Pace yourself. Using a clock or timer, practice making your meal last at least 20 minutes.

Based on this current research, you can be sure I am not giving up my goal to slow down my own eating pace. If nothing else, I know I’ll enjoy my food more. And not leave my eating partners in the dust.

Are you a fast eater? Do you have a weight or blood sugar problem? Have any of the above suggestions worked for you? Do you have any of your own tips to share?

Related Posts