Many people eat their food quickly and carelessly.
This may lead to weight gain and other health issues.
Eating slowly may be a much smarter approach, as it could provide a number of benefits.
This article explores the benefits of eating slowly.
In fact, fast eaters are up to 115% more likely than slower eaters to be obese (
They also tend to gain weight over time, which may be partially due to eating too fast.
In one study in over 4,000 middle-aged adults, those who said they ate very fast tended to be heavier and had gained the most body weight since age 20 (
Another study examined weight change in 529 men over 8 years. Those who reported being fast eaters gained more than twice as much weight as self-described slow or medium-paced eaters (
SUMMARY Studies show that people who eat quickly tend to be heavier and gain more weight over time, compared with slower eaters.
Your appetite and calorie intake is largely controlled by hormones.
After a meal, your gut suppresses a hormone called ghrelin, which controls hunger, while also releasing fullness hormones (
These hormones tell your brain that you have eaten, reducing appetite, making you feel full, and helping you stop eating.
This process takes about 20 minutes, so slowing down gives your brain the time it needs to receive these signals.
Eating slowly can increase fullness hormones
Eating too quickly often leads to overeating, as your brain doesn’t have enough time to receive fullness signals.
In one study, 17 healthy people with a normal weight ate 10.5 ounces (300 grams) of ice cream on 2 occasions. During the first, they at the ice cream within 5 minutes, but during the second, they took 30 minutes (
Their reported fullness and levels of fullness hormones increased significantly more after eating the ice cream slowly.
In a follow-up study, this time in people with diabetes, as well as overweight or obesity, slowing down did not increase fullness hormones. However, it significantly increased rates of fullness (
Eating slowly can decrease calorie intake
In one study, people with normal weight or overweight ate at different paces. Both groups ate fewer calories during the slowest-paced meal, although the difference was only statistically significant in the normal-weight group (
All participants also felt fuller for longer after eating more slowly, reporting less hunger 60 minutes after the slow meal than after the fast one.
This spontaneous reduction in calorie intake should lead to weight loss over time.
SUMMARY Eating slowly increases the levels of gut hormones responsible for feeling full, which may help reduce calorie intake.
To eat slowly, you need to chew your food thoroughly before swallowing.
This can help you reduce calorie intake and lose weight.
The average calorie intake decreased by 9.5% when people chewed 1.5 times more than normal and nearly 15% when they chewed twice as much as usual.
Another small study noted that calorie intake decreased and fullness hormone levels increased when the number of chews per bite increased from 15 to 40 (
However, there may be a limit to how much chewing you can do and still enjoy a meal. One study found that chewing each bite for 30 seconds reduced snacking later on — but also significantly reduced meal enjoyment (
SUMMARY Chewing food thoroughly slows down your eating pace and reduces the number of calories you take in, which can lead to weight loss.
Eating slowly may also improve your health and quality of life in other ways, including:
- increasing your enjoyment of food
- improving your digestion
- helping you better absorb nutrients
- making you feel calmer and more in control
- reducing your levels of stress
SUMMARY There are many other good reasons to eat more slowly, including improved digestion and reduced stress.
Here’s some advice to help you start eating more slowly:
- Avoid extreme hunger. It’s hard to eat slowly when you’re very hungry. To prevent extreme hunger, keep some healthy snacks on hand.
- Chew more. Count how many times you normally chew a bite of food, then double that amount. You may be surprised at how little you usually chew.
- Set your utensils down. Putting down your fork between bites of food will help you eat more slowly and savor each bite.
- Eat foods that need chewing. Focus on fibrous foods that require a lot of chewing, such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Fiber can also promote weight loss.
- Drink water. Make sure to drink plenty of water or other zero-calorie beverages with your meals.
- Use a timer. Set your kitchen timer for 20 minutes and do your best not to finish before the buzzer goes off. Aim for a slow, consistent pace throughout the meal.
- Turn off your screens. Try to avoid electronic devices, such as television and smartphones, while eating.
- Take deep breaths. If you begin to eat too quickly, take some deep breaths. This will help you refocus and get back on track.
- Practice mindful eating. Mindful eating techniques help you pay more attention to what you’re eating and gain control of your cravings.
- Be patient. Change takes time, as it takes about 66 days for a new behavior to become a habit (19).
SUMMARY With practice and a few tried-and-true techniques, eating slowly will become easier and more sustainable.
Eating too quickly can lead to weight gain and decreased enjoyment of food.
However, slowing down can increase fullness and promote weight loss. It also provides other health benefits.
If you minimize your screen time, chew more, and focus on high-fiber foods, you’ll be well on your way to slower eating.