Slow Down When You Eat! You Aren't Going to Win a Prize!


This article was first published in December of 2009, and we felt like it deserved another spin, so take it away Heather!

I would be willing to bet that if I sat down to dinner with almost any one of you, I’d be finished with my plate before you had a chance to cut your meat.

I am a speed eater. I literally inhale my food. By the time I realize that I’ve almost cleaned my plate, I have to bring my jaw to a screeching halt and start taking minuscule bites to let everyone else catch up. Which gets old after a bit, and then I just proceed to polish off my food.

I can’t remember a time that I DIDN’T eat fast. My dad, my brother, and I all eat like ravenous wolves –  heads down, knife poised to push the food onto the ever waiting fork, one eye locked on the last piece of bread sitting in the basket.

Over the years, our excuse has been that we are a commercial fishing family. I won’t bore you with too many details, but basically, our meals are prepared and eaten in between sets (the time between when you put the net out to catch the fish and then bringing it back in). And this explanation has always made sense to me. My grandfather, who is a retired fisherman, also eats like someone is just standing in the wings waiting to snatch away his food at any minute.

Here’s the problem: I haven’t been on a fishing boat in almost 17 years.

So I guess that excuse kind of just went flying out the window. And besides being just, well, EMBARRASSING, eating too quickly is also  not a healthy habit.

Lately, the ridicule from my husband people in my life (‘where’s the fire!’ or ‘no one’s going to take it away from you’ or ‘did you even TASTE that?’) has started getting obnoxious. Especially because I know it’s true.

I decided to read up on WHY eating quickly is unhealthy, and how to train oneself to eat slowly.

First, why is fast eating a no-no?

– Leads to Overeating: Basically, it takes your brain twenty minutes from the time you start eating to send signals of fullness. So, maybe a half of that sandwich would have been enough, but whoops! I ate the whole thing, plus a bag of chips and a cookie.

– Can lead to Obesity: See above.

– Affects Digestion: Digestion begins in the mouth, people. As in, the more you CHEW your food, the easier it is to digest. The act of chewing actually triggers the rest of the digestive process.

– Can Cause Heartburn:  Speed eating has been linked to gastroesophageal reflux.

Through research, I keep running into the term ‘mindful eating’. Mindful eating is pretty self explanatory – slowing down and THINKING about your food, enjoying the different flavors, textures and smells, savoring your meal.

Mindful eating takes practice. It may sound silly, but if you’re like me and have spent your life inhaling your meals, slowing down your rate of consumption will not be an overnight endeavor.  Here are a few simple ideas and tips:

– Practice mindful eating with dessert. By the time most people get to dessert, they’re no longer hunger. At this point, you can really sit back and reflect on what you are eating.

– Don’t let yourself get too famished.  Nothing makes you eat faster than feeling over-hungry.

– Put your fork down between each bite.

– Chew your food. A lot. A good tip: you should not be able to tell what you are eating by it’s texture in your mouth.

– One article I read even suggested turning down the lights, lighting some candles and putting on soft music while you eat.  Feel free to try that if you want – but I don’t want to make out with my food. I just don’t want to eat too much!

During this holiday season, I am going to try to put some of these ideas into practice.  And who knows? Maybe I will be the last one at the table this year. And not just because I’m working on thirds!

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