Fast Eater? 10 Simple Slow-Down Tips

Do you wolf down your food?

If yes, you're not alone.

In our fast-paced culture, most people are speedy eaters. (If you’re not sure, click here.) 
Eating fast is a major stressor on your body. Not only does it agitate your digestive system, leading to gas, bloating, cramping, acid reflux and the like, it also compromises your body’s ability to effectively absorb nutrients and metabolize food. 
Rapid-fire consumption can also lead to overeating, binge eating, cravings, low energy, cruddy sleep and other unpleasant side effects. 
Is eating fast worth feeling like crap? 
How to Put the Breaks On
How you eat is just as important as what you eat. Here are 10 simple tips to help you put the breaks on your fast eating: 

  1. Unitask. Only eat when you eat. Don’t watch TV, send texts, answer emails, fold laundry, drive your car, etc. You can’t pay attention to how you’re eating if your head is somewhere else.
  2. Sit at a table. Doing so tells your brain it’s mealtime, enabling it to better prepare for the incoming food. Eating while standing at your kitchen counter or walking down the street splits your attention diverting resources away from the digestive process. 
  3. Make time. Allocate more time for your meals so you’re not forced to rush—at least 20 minutes, ideally longer.
  4. Give it a rest. Set down your fork, spoon, sandwich, taco, pizza slice, etc. and rest your hands in your lap in between bites of food. 
  5. Chew thoroughly. Most folks chew a bite of food about five times before swallowing, which is most likely not enough, unless you’re eating mashed potatoes. Take smaller bites and try chewing each bite to smoothie consistency. Research shows chewing more leads to eating less and lowers ghrelin levels, the hunger hormone.
  6. Eat with your non-dominant hand. It will feel awkward, but it will definitely slow you down. So will eating with chopsticks if you suck at using them, like I do. 
  7. Sit next to a slow eater. Try to match his or her pace. 
  8. Take a few deep breaths. Before you dive into your meal, take three slow, deep breaths. Repeat a few times through out your meal. Doing so will slow down your pace and shift your body from the stress response to the relaxation response, the optimal state for digestion and metabolism.
  9. Play slow, mellow music. Just as fast-paced tunes encourage fast-paced workouts, they also encourage fast-paced eating. 
  10. Forgo fast food. It's designed to be eaten fast.

Your first attempts at eating slower may leave you feeling bored, restless or frustrated. Stick with it. Over time, it will become second nature. As I've seen with myself and with my clients, the results will be worth it.

Are You Like This Woman on the Bus?

Recently, I was riding the bus when a passenger sitting near the front caught my eye. I was transfixed by how fast she was eating from a takeout container. I’ve seriously never seen anyone inhale food so rapidly, not even at a hot dog eating contest.

All the sudden, she started having a coughing fit. As I realized she was choking, her eyes rolled back into her head and she passed out on the floor! A guy near me ran to help her as I reached for my phone to call 911. Thankfully, she came to within a few seconds, was able to clear the obstruction, and the bus went on its way.

Your Body is Always Talking to You
While this is an extreme example of the possible consequences of fast eating, it serves as a good reminder that your body will always try to tell you when something you're doing isn’t working for it. Sometimes, as in this woman’s case, it will need to yell to get your attention. Her choking was a desperate scream from her body that it could not handle her rapid-fire eating.

Signs You’re Eating Too Fast
Whenever I bite my lip or tongue while eating, I know it’s a sign that I’m eating too fast. Here are some other red flags—some subtler than others—that signal you may be chowing down too quickly.

  • Burping
  • Flatulence
  • Heartburn
  • Regurgitating food
  • Bloated belly
  • Stomach pain  
  • Sensation of a “brick” in your belly
  • Overeating
  • Very little memory of actually eating your meal
  • Desire to eat again shortly after your meal
  • Food cravings
  • Lack of pleasure or satisfaction from your meal
  • Undigested food particles in your stool
  • Sluggishness
  • Lethargy
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

Of course, other things can cause these conditions as well. However, if you are experiencing any of them, I encourage you to experiment with eating slower, including thoroughly chewing each bite, to see what impact it has. 

Slowing down does require dedicating more time for your meals, ditching distractions, and committing to changing the way you’ve probably been eating for decades. In the beginning, it also requires a hearty dose of patience until it becomes second nature. If you persevere, I promise you, the results will be worth it.