A lot of people eat their food fast and mindlessly.

It’s a very bad habit that can lead to overeating, weight gain, and obesity.

This article explains why eating too fast may be one of the leading drivers of weight gain.

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In today’s busy world, people often eat quickly and in a hurry.

However, your brain needs time to process signals of fullness (1).

In fact, it may take up to 20 minutes for your brain to realize that you’re full.

When you eat fast, it’s much easier to eat a lot more food than your body really needs. Over time, excess calorie intake can lead to weight gain.

One study in children found that 60% of those who ate rapidly also overate. The fast eaters were also 3 times more likely to be overweight (2).

SUMMARY It takes your brain around 20 minutes to realize that you have had enough to eat. Being a fast eater is associated with overeating.

Obesity is one of the biggest health problems worldwide. It’s a complex disease that is not simply caused by poor diet, inactivity, or lack of willpower.

In fact, complicated environmental and lifestyle factors are at play (3).

For example, fast eating has been studied as a potential risk factor for becoming overweight and obese (4, 5, 6, 7, 8).

One recent review of 23 studies found that fast eaters were approximately twice as likely to be obese, compared with slow eaters (9).

SUMMARY Fast eating is associated with excess body weight. In fact, fast eaters may be up to twice as likely to be obese compared with those who eat slowly.

Eating fast not only increases your risk of becoming overweight and obese, it’s also linked to other health problems, including:

  • Insulin resistance. Eating too quickly is linked to a higher risk of insulin resistance, which is characterized by high blood sugar and insulin levels. It’s a hallmark of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (10, 11, 12).
  • Type 2 diabetes. Eating fast has been associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. One study found that fast eaters were 2.5 times more likely to get the disease compared with those who ate slowly (13, 14).
  • Metabolic syndrome. Rapid eating and the associated weight gain may increase your risk of metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that may raise your risk of diabetes and heart disease (15, 16).
  • Poor digestion. Fast eaters commonly report poor digestion as a consequence of eating too quickly. They may take larger bites and chew their food less, which may affect digestion.
  • Lower satisfaction. Fast eaters tend to rate their meals as less pleasant, compared with slow eaters. This may not be a health problem per se but is important nonetheless (17).
SUMMARY Eating fast may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. It may also lead to poor digestion and decreased your enjoyment of food.

Eating more slowly may provide various health benefits.

It may increase your levels of fullness hormones, help you feel more satisfied, and decrease your calorie intake (1, 17).

It also improves your digestion and enjoyment of food.

If you want to eat slower, here are a few techniques you can try:

  • Don’t eat in front of screens. Eating in front of a TV, computer, smartphone, or other device may cause you to eat fast and mindlessly. It can also make you lose track of how much you have eaten.
  • Put your fork down between each mouthful. This helps you slow down and enjoy each bite more.
  • Don't get too hungry. Avoid becoming extremely hungry between meals. It can make you eat too fast and make poor food decisions. Keep some healthy snacks around to prevent this from happening.
  • Sip on water. Drinking water throughout your meal will help you feel full and encourage you to slow down.
  • Chew thoroughly. Chew your food more often before swallowing. It may help to count how many times you chew each bite. Aim to chew each mouthful of food 20–30 times.
  • Eat foods rich in fiber. High-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables are not only very filling but also take quite a long time to chew.
  • Take small bites. Taking smaller bites may help you slow down your eating pace and make your meal last longer.
  • Eat mindfully. Mindful eating is a powerful tool. The fundamental principle behind it is to pay attention to the food you’re eating. Some of the exercises above are practiced in mindful eating.

Like all new habits, eating slowly takes practice and patience. Start with just one of the tips above and develop the habit from there.

SUMMARY Slow eating techniques include chewing more, drinking plenty of water, eating without distractions, and avoiding extreme hunger.

Eating quickly is a common practice in today’s fast-paced world.

While it can save you a few minutes during mealtimes, it also increases your risk of various health problems, including obesity and type 2 diabetes.

If weight loss is your goal, eating fast may be hindering your progress.

Eating more slowly, on the other hand, can provide powerful benefits — so slow down and savor each and every bite.