I used to sit down and inhale my food. I wasn’t paying attention to what I was eating, and I wasn’t listening to what other people were saying. My mind sort of went blank, and I felt like I had no self-control.
Eating too fast set the tone for the rest of my day. If I ate too fast for breakfast, I kept looking forward to the next meal so I could shove down more food. However, on days when I was able to control myself more, I was less likely to overeat throughout the day. I also felt more calm and able to think clearly, so I was able to make even more healthy choices.
I had to train myself to eat slowly. It was extremely difficult, and it took me a very long time to do it consistently. Actually, I still work on it. But changing this one simple habit had a domino effect — it was the catalyst for all the other changes I made, and it changed my relationship with food entirely.
Eating too fast has lots of drawbacks. It means you’re going to eat way more than your body needs, which equals weight gain. It means that you never realize that you actually can feel full without inhaling a plateful of food. It means that you never really enjoy the food you eat or the experience of eating itself.
But the worst thing about eating too fast is that it makes you feel out of control. Feeling powerless and out of control will push you to continue binge eating, because that’s what you’ve trained yourself to do to feel better. So then you pig out at another meal, feel bad about yourself, and continue the cycle.
Feeling out of control also means that you’re unable to make clear, conscious choices — choices to engage in healthy behaviors that lead to habit change. So you never change any of your habits and get the momentum you need.
Eating slowly, on the other hand, gives you tons of benefits, both for your body and (especially) your mind. Here’s how:
1. It changes your mindset. Eating slowly makes you feel calm and in control. Feeling this way makes it far less likely that you will binge eat, feel out of control, and shove down more food to make yourself feel better. It stops the cycle. And eating slowly helps you think more clearly, so you’re able to make good decisions (or any decisions at all). It allows you to make important distinctions by asking questions like, “Is this what I really want to eat?” or “Why do I eat so fast?” It helps you be mindful.
2. It changes your relationship with food and how you eat. Eating slowly helps you see how you can feel full with less food. When this realization finally sinks in, you start making changes like ordering smaller meals or foods that aren’t so filling (for example, getting a side salad instead of fries).
Eating slowly helps you enjoy your food and the experience of eating. It prevents you from having that horrible feeling of being stuffed that overeating gives you. When eating becomes pleasurable rather than something that numbs your pain, you start doing things like taking time to prepare your food and experimenting with new foods. You start taking care of yourself, which makes you feel good about yourself.
3. It affects your other habits and gives you momentum. Eating slowly and feeling calm and in control makes you feel confident. Having confidence means that you are more likely to feel capable of making small, consistent changes to your habits for the long haul, rather than dieting for a quick fix. Once you start changing habit after habit, you gain momentum and start to see exponential results.
Eating slowly, especially first thing in the morning, keeps you on track for the rest of the day. The more you eat slowly, the more that affects what you consistently do. And when you take actions consistently, they become habits.
So how do you start eating more slowly? Here are some small modifications you can make to get you started:
- Put your fork down between bites
- Play relaxing music while you eat
- Don’t eat in front of a screen (this one’s really hard for me)
- Ask the server to box up half of your meal to go before you get your food
- Make an actual meal, not just something lying around — you’re more likely to appreciate what you’re eating if you made an effort to prepare it
Come up with your own tiny changes to accomplish this goal. It makes a huge difference in your habits and in how you eat, and it dramatically improves your relationship with food. It also makes all other changes easier, and it gives you the results you want even faster.