I’ve always been a fast eater, but I didn’t find out until college. There I was, sitting in the cafeteria staring at my empty tray of food and all my new friends were just starting in on their food.
I guess those 18-minute lunch periods in high school kind of ruined me because even now, I can only eat at one speed—fast. It’s so bad that my girlfriend suggested that I try to count the number of times I chew my food because she wants me to slow down. I haven’t given that a try yet.
It turns out that me and my fellow fast feeders are in for a let down: the faster you eat, the fatter you can get.
A study recently published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association was the first of its kind to compare the speed at which a person eats to their body-mass index.
Now the study, which focused on middle-aged women, acknowledged that a cause-and-effect relationship wasn’t determined between fast feeding and weight gain, but it did show a direct link between the two. Researchers plan to follow up with the women from the first study to further explore if their eating speed predicts future weight gain.
I, however, think it’s a good reminder for all of us to slow down.
It’s no secret that people want to eat and they often want their food quick and easy. That’s why we have fast food, instant everything, and enough pre-made meal options to stock aisle upon aisle at a supermarket. Too often, we cram our stomachs full of food as quickly as possible to get rid of hunger, not realizing that the same end could be accomplished by much more effective means.
We often eat at our desks. We eat in our cars. We eat in between things and don’t pay much attention to what we’re doing. And it’s detrimental to our health. The American culture is one built on speed. We want everything at 4G speeds, but we need to end that, at least when it comes to dinner.
Besides your waistline, there are many reasons to slow down while eating. For instance, eating is often one of the few times when people have the time to gather, so instead of going silent and inhaling your food, try a conversation and enjoying your mealtime company.
Also, take time to actually enjoy your food. We’ve only had an abundance of food for a short time in our evolution, so pay homage to your hunter-gatherer roots by eating slower and appreciating all the hard work (over millennia and the during last few months, weeks, and hours) that went into your food.
If you have any kind of digestion issues—especially the ritualistic after-meal breaking of the wind—slowing down can help that. The more time you can give your digestive system to properly digest, the fewer problems you’re going to have.
Now we have yet another reminder to slow down, take our time, and enjoy what we have while we have it.