by Geoff Rand
I’ve been conditioned to eat quickly all my life. With three brothers, I had to scarf my food down fast if I wanted seconds. In military school, we had to square our meals (an extremely slow method where you take a forkful, extend your arm parallel to the table, raise it up to mouth level, bring it to your mouth and chew it, placing your fork down between bites), but because squaring took so long, we would hardly make a dent in our plates. The upperclassmen would always eventually yell, “Shovel!” and we’d commence an all out assault on whatever remained on our plates with total disregard for manners or healthy habits. Now, as a police officer, I have to eat quickly because I never know when a radio call is going to come in and force me to abandon my meal.
But there are some serious downsides to eating your food so quickly. First, when we eat too fast, we are more likely to overeat. This is because it takes around 20 minutes for our stomach to signal our brain that it is full. The faster you eat, the more calories you can ingest before you feel satiated, and this leads to weight gain. And studies have shown that people who scarf down their meals feel hungry again sooner than people who take their time.
Fast eating also leads to a bloated feeling from gulping in air along with your monstrous bites. Related to bloating are acid reflux and heartburn, caused when esophageal valves fail to close, releasing stomach acids upwards into the esophagus. Over time, this acid goes from being uncomfortable to becoming a serious health risk.
But there are ways we can all slow down, enjoy our food more, and eat in a way that is better for us.
One of the easiest changes you can make is to put your fork down between bites. Fully chew and swallow before going for the next bite.
Put down the phone and turn off the TV. Being distracted tends to make us eat faster. Instead of remaining plugged in during meals, try the ancient art of conversation with other humans. I know it sounds weird, but give it a try.
Cut your food into smaller pieces and focus on chewing it fully before swallowing. Your mouth is the first step in the digestive process, and fully chewed food is easier for the body to process completely.
Change your utensils. Switching from a fork to chopsticks will definitely slow down your meals. Or, go to a fondue restaurant like the Melting Pot, where you skewer and cook your food in pots of hot oil. You can’t eat quickly there.
Drink water. Having water with your meal aids in digestion, but also assists in helping us to feel fuller faster, saving us from overeating.
However you do it, there are some real benefits to incorporating healthy changes to your eating habits. By slowing down you can improve the relationship between your body and food.