The Benefits of Eating Slowly

eating slowly

The longer I work in nutrition, the more I focus on the fundamentals.

Sure, it can be sexy to talk about a flashy new supplement. Or to really dig into different metabolic pathways in the body.

But if the end goal is to improve health over the long term, following solid habits is what makes the biggest difference.

And one of the most important fundamentals you can do is eat slowly.

The simple act of sitting down and eating your meals in a relaxed and distraction-free manner is beneficial for a number of reasons.  

Eating slowly and paying attention to your food increases mindfulness.

You become aware of your hunger and fullness cues. It becomes much more difficult to overeat when you are present and in the moment.

You become aware of the taste of the food.

Fast food has been engineered to hit our pleasure centers and this leads people to eat more quickly. But when you slow down and consciously eat this type of food, often the opposite occurs. It’s less appealing and often disappointing.

The inverse is true with more real, whole foods. If you eat it in a rush without paying attention, it’s much less pleasurable. There’s no stand out flavours that catch your attention when you’re checking emails or distracted by the TV.

But when you eat these freshly-produced whole foods when you’re present, things change markedly. You notice the flavours more acutely and this increases your enjoyment of the meal.

Now this can take time to feel normal.

If you’ve never eaten much of this type of food growing up, it’s much subtler than the over-the-top sensation of eating fast food. But with time, your taste buds can actually change and you’ll begin to enjoy these foods more.

And even if your taste buds don’t change, eating slowly is still beneficial. Irrespective of the food choice, eating in a calm, relaxed manner is better for health.  

Eating slowly will leave you feeling better after eating your meal.

When you eat slowly and mindfully, digestion works better. You’re less likely to get heartburn or bloating and you’re less likely to feel sluggish after the meal.   

It helps you trust your body.

Instead of relying on external cues, you’ll begin to tune in to the signals your body is giving you. No need to calorie count or to weigh and measure out portions, instead letting your body do this naturally for you.

Eating slowly can also highlight other areas of importance.

By trying to implement eating slowly, you may notice how much of a rush you’re always in. You realise that food is often an afterthought that you try and wedge in between back-to-back meetings or an otherwise hectic schedule.

Or maybe you realise that it’s hard to be alone with your thoughts while eating slowly. Or that so much of your eating is about emotions and coping rather than about nourishment.

All of these are indicators to what your real “food issues” are and can help you see why going on another diet isn’t the solution.  

If someone is suffering with issues around food that involve restriction and under eating, slowing down with eating might not be where I’d start (and possibly the opposite suggestion would be helpful).

But for many clients, it’s a great solution.

So what does “eating slowly” look like?

  • Put down your cutlery between bites
  • Pause and take a few extra moments before you pick your cutlery back up again
  • Become conscious of your chewing (more so in the beginning) and chew for a little longer than you think is necessary
  • Be in the moment and enjoy the experience of eating. Notice the smells, flavors, and textures, and see what happens when you really pay attention.
  • Eat without distractions. So avoid TVs, phones, laptops, emails and anything that disconnects you from the eating experience. Pleasant conversations with family or friends or enjoying music are welcome.
  • Begin by aiming for 15 minutes per meal and increase to 20 or 30 minutes. If it helps, set a timer.  You can do the same with snacks too, taking just 5 minutes to eat distraction free.

So if eating slowly feels appropriate for you, then give it a try and see what you notice.



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Chris Sandel is the founder of www.seven-health.com. He is a nutritionist, working with clients on a one-on-one basis, as well as creating online trainings and products about health and nutrition. He is the author of The Health Trap: Why "Healthy" Eating Isn't Always Healthy which is available on Amazon UK and Amazon USA.

Chris has three free emails series. One is on how to quit dieting. One is on simple tests you can do at home. And the other is his take on the world's healthiest foods.

Comments

  1. david ulmer says:

    thanks so much for this chris! this is somthing that has helped me so much in the past and i really am glad you posted this as a reminder for me wich i needed very much. i also love when you talk about intuitive eating, i have been a chronic “calorie counter” for years and always ate enough to keep my weight up but 80% of the time i never felt satisfied once i “reached my calorie limit” latley i have grabbed a couple more fruit or ate a bowl of cereal and just alowed myself that extra nourishment and listened to my body and it has been great, not only do i finaly get that plesant “full” sensation but i go about my day better as well, my mood iis better and i can even see advancments when i do my swimming and weight lifting. slow, mindful eating and having the courage to intuitively eat has been the best tools for me.

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