Could Eating More Slowly Change Your Life?

By Camille Styles
inspired by a Mediterranean mezze

inspired by a Mediterranean mezze

Do you ever feel bummed when a meal is over? That’s me about seventy-five percent of the time, partially because I’m so enthusiastic about what I’m eating that I simply never want it to end, but mostly because I ate it hurriedly and only halfway remembered to enjoy it. Does anyone else experience this? Since most of us are flying through life overscheduled and in a hurry, it makes total sense that mealtime is all too often a rushed affair. Slowing down and enjoying the journey (and the flavor) is a constant goal of mine in life… and at lunch.

It usually goes something like this: I sit down at a meal that I’ve shopped for, prepared and looked forward to… then I start talking, or cruising the internet, or jumping up and down between bites to help Phoebe and Henry with their eating needs (there are a lot), and poof! Somehow my entire meal has disappeared and I hardly noticed consuming it. *tear* 

Based on conversations with friends, it seems speed-eating is an issue for a lot of us. My friend Kim, a business owner with a 4-year-old and 1-year-old, says, “I call this the ‘one-handed eating’ phase of my life: if a child is around and a knife is needed, I pass. I have to be very mindful to try and buy healthy, easy things so I don’t resort to junk food.”

inspired by a Mediterranean mezze

Similarly, my friend Anne (who seems to magically juggle mothering her 3 kids with her jobs as an editor and design assistant — without a nanny or daycare) says that a designated lunch time doesn’t really even exist for her. “I make a point to have a well rounded and healthy protein-packed breakfast before the hullabaloo that is my day begins. Early in the day, I start with an egg and a corn tortilla and possibly a smoothie. It helps fuel me and keep me going.”

And Jordan opts for drinking some of her meals: “I owe most of my nutrition to my Vitamix. I mix up a smoothie for breakfast or lunch almost every day, and especially with kids, it’s so easy and portable and can be taken in the car without having to sacrifice a healthy meal.”

inspired by a Mediterranean mezze

On the flip side, Kelly recently experienced unexpected effects on her eating speed after a visit to the dentist: “There is such a thing called the #InvisalignDiet and I am on it. According to my dentist, for optimal results, it’s recommended that I wear my trays for 22 hours a day and brush my teeth after each meal (trust me, you do not want to simply pop your trays back on after a meal without brushing). As a result, I’m no longer snacking all day long or having a quick bite of a treat just because it’s there. I’m much more mindful, eating only when I’m hungry and filling up on water in between. It’s a nice departure from my mindless grazing, even with the healthiest of snacks. I’ve even lost a few pounds. Who knew I’d develop healthy habits on the path to straighter teeth!”

Carmen, one of the slower eaters on our team, says, “I’ve noticed that it’s easier for me to tell when I’m getting full when I’m not watching tv or working on my computer. When you’re fully present at the table, you’re more likely to listen to your body, rather than just trying to clear your plate!”

There’s another anxiety-producing scenario to consider: what happens when you share food with someone who eats more quickly than you? Chanel says, “As someone who eats at a generally normal pace, I’m forever wary of sharing dishes with faster eaters. There’s nothing worse than feeling pressured to eat more food, more quickly! One example — my fiancé eats french fries 2 or 3 at a time, while I pick up one fry at a time and savor each bite. You can imagine what happens when there’s one basket of pomme frites set between the two of us: lots of foodie anxiety and the pressure to keep up! Anyone else?”

inspired by a Mediterranean mezze

For those that aren’t fully convinced that eating slowly is a worthy endeavor, consider a few of the benefits:

  1. Achieve a healthy weight. Eating slowly gives our bodies time to realize that they’re full. It takes about twenty minutes from the start of a meal for the brain to send out signals of satiety, so if we can give ourselves time to register those feelings, we can avoid overeating (and that icky “stuffed” feeling that comes with it.)
  2. Improve digestion. Digestion starts in the mouth, and when we eat very quickly, large bites that are inadequately chewed end up making their way to our stomachs. This leads to difficulty breaking down the food, causing indigestion and other GI problems.
  3. Increased satisfaction. Remember how I said that when I eat a great meal too quickly, I feel bummed that I kind of missed the whole experience? When we take time to really savor and appreciate every bite, we leave the table feeling content and happy in our tummies and souls.

I’d love to hear if you guys are naturally fast or slow eaters, and if it’s something that you’ve tried to work on in the past? Any tips on how you’ve learned to eat more mindfully, slow down and savor your meals? Let me know in the comments — I’m going to try and put some of them into action over the next few weeks, and I’ll report back on my progress!

On a side note, at some point while typing this I sucked down a smoothie and ate a bowl of fruit — but was so absorbed in my writing that I didn’t really notice.

*photos: Kristen Kilpatrick