Barry Allen (or The Flash) might be the fastest human alive, but I can definitely eat faster than he ever will. There are many potential explanations why I eat that fast.
It might be because my parents ate fast. It might be because the oldest 0-type blood runs through my veins, remembering the ancient times when fridges hadn’t been invented yet and you had to immediately eat your whole catch. Or it might just be gluttony. It’s probably a combination of all those things.
There’s one thing that could put me in the Guinness book of world records (I can eat 4 bananas under 1 minute), yet eating slowly is some of the best health advice ever when it comes to diet and nutrition. How unfair can life be?
I must put tremendous effort into eating slowly; and to be completely honest with you, I manage to do it approximately half of the time. To stay optimistic, that means I’m halfway there.
Based on my own observations and some research, let’s look at the main reasons why you should eat slowly; or at least torture yourself to do so.
Why to eat slowly?
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You will eat less food
It takes around 15 to 20 minutes for your brain to become aware that your stomach is taking in food. If you eat the whole plate in like 5 minutes, you still feel hungry. Your brain assumes that your stomach is still empty. Try it.
I did it several times, and it’s true. When I eat slowly, namely for more than 20 minutes, the feeling of being fed kicks in. And eating any food in less than 20 minutes keeps me hungry. I’m like: I just ate, what the heck is going on with my appetite?
A trick you can do is to start with a hot soup or a salad. It’s impossible to eat salad fast. You need to chew all the leaves. A cow has four stomachs, and still needs to chew grass for a long period of time. You only have one stomach. That means even more chewing.
It’s similar with a hot soup. You need to eat it very slowly, waiting for every spoonful to cool down; or else you burn your tongue. In summary, eating slowly is the best advice when it comes to portion control. And portion control leads to losing weight.
You don’t overclock your stomach
I have very sensitive stomach acid. If I eat very fast, my stomach acid gets irritated immediately. Too much food at once keeps you bloated, clogged, tired and with too much stomach fluid. If you eat slowly, on the other hand, you give your stomach a manageable workload. That has several side benefits.
First of all, with slow eating you properly chew the food. Since digestion already starts in your mouth with saliva, that saves additional work for your stomach. Secondly, with slow eating all the food gets properly digested, which leads to fewer digestive problems. And you avoid burping, which is very nice, especially if you’re in public.
You can enjoy the food and practice mindfulness
There are at least two aspects to food. One is to survive and the other is to enjoy it. Food has always had an important role in all kinds of pleasurable and social activities.
But here’s the thing. If you eat quickly, it’s kind of impossible to really enjoy food; or your company. Only eating slowly gives you the chance to dedicate part of your attention to the food – taste, texture, mixture of tastes, decoration, and so on.
There’s also a thing called mindful eating. You strive to be completely present in the moment, with your attention completely focused on every bite that you take in your mouth. You try to observe and sense as many things about the food as possible.
Taking slow bites calms you down and makes you be present in the moment.
Surround yourself with slow eaters
In my country, we have this stupid game for kids, in which the one who finishes the meal first is called “the golden bird”. The competition forces kids to eat quickly from a young age.
I’ve been raised in a fast-eating family, so we all competed to see who the golden bird would be. I always won, of course, so no wonder that I was extremely obese when young.
Today, the situation is quite different. My girlfriend is an extremely slow eater. When I’ve already finished the whole meal, she’s still chewing her first bite. And then I feel kind of awkward.
Watching her eat slowly absolutely has a positive influence on me eating slowly. And if I’m in a fast-eating mood, I take longer breaks between the dishes, waiting for her to “catch up”.
As always, your environment has a great influence on your habits and who you become. Surrounding yourself with slow eaters will force you to eat more slowly.
It’s the ultimate training for self-discipline
We all need food to survive. Food is something very primal that plays a central role in our lives. That’s why it’s so hard to be disciplined when it comes to eating habits, especially to your sugar intake. No wonder the world is getting more and more obese.
Consequently, fasting and slow eating are the ultimate exercises of self-discipline. If you can train yourself to go without food for a longer period of time (with a healthy limit) and if you can train yourself to eat slowly, you can achieve anything in life.
The whole world lies in front of a person who is disciplined, persistent and focused. Luckily, you can start training your self-discipline with your next meal.
Trick yourself into eating slowly
In the fast food society, slow food is absolutely the way to go. Your digestion will improve, you’ll eat smaller portions, you’ll do your digestive track and overall health a great favor and in the end, you might even lose a few pounds of fat. And let’s not forget that you’ll also enjoy life more.
What more can you ask for?
But if you are like me, eating slowly is not something that comes naturally to you. So, it makes sense to trick yourself into lazy chewing. Here are a few ideas how:
- Count to 20 chews every time you take a bite (it won’t work with soup)
- Practice mindful eating (you know, observing every possible detail of every single bite)
- Set a timer to 21 minutes and adjust the eating pace accordingly
- Drink a glass of water before you start eating
- Don’t eat in front of the TV
- Take 10 very deep breaths before you start with your meal
- Use several smaller plates
- Always sit down behind a table to eat
- Eat more foods that are high in fiber or protein (salads etc.)
- Put the fork down in between bites
- Use small spoons or chopsticks
- Avoid sugar to prevent insulin spikes
Your stomach pays more attention to the food’s volume than calories.
Pay attention to the “fast food” triggers
Pay attention to the situations in which you repeatedly eat really quickly. I noticed there are some situations that trigger in me the need for eating speed. Examples of my triggers are:
- If my blood sugar drops after not eating for a longer period of time
- When I get emotionally upset, which leads to emotional eating
- If I have a really busy day and I try to be very productive
- When I don’t pay enough attention to my basic needs, because of “higher goals”
- If I’m really excited about something
Some triggers can be easily removed. In my case, a good example would be the sugar spikes. If I follow a consistent eating schedule, I can easily avoid any extreme hunger. Sometimes when I’m busy, working in the flow, I simply forget to eat. So, I aim for 80 % perfection. That’s a good enough goal for me.
And some triggers, like emotional hunger, can’t be easily removed. I have no idea who or what will piss me off tomorrow. In such cases, I either find a healthy surrogate for food or sometimes I just eat fast, forgive myself, and make sure that I eat my next 20 meals or so very slowly.
It’s much better to forgive yourself than burdening myself with additional guilt. Just don't forgive yourself every single meal.
Knowing yourself is the best way to teach yourself slow and mindful eating. If you aim for 80 % perfection, you’ll be just fine. Your next meal is a great opportunity to start practicing slow eating. All hail slow food!