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Back in the 1800s, health-food enthusiast Horace Fletcher advised people to chew each mouthful thoroughly in order to prevent weight gain. And, in fact, this isn’t just an old wives’ tale!

Scientific evidence mounts that fast paced eating can harm your health.

Benefits of a moderate pace

You may actually eat more food when you eat fast yet end up feeling less full and satisfied when you’re through with your meal. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that people consume 10 percent fewer calories when they eat slowly than when they gobble down their meal.

Self-reported rapid eaters tend to have a higher body mass index (BMI) and gain more weight over time, and this is true whether they are healthy, diabetic, adults, or children. One study of more than 3,000 Japanese men and women showed that those who ate quickly until they felt full had three times the risk of being overweight than those who ate more slowly! Speed eating is also linked with a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

How it works

After eating a meal at a moderate pace, your body releases more “satisfaction” hormones, which send a signal to your brain that you should stop eating. For example, when healthy males were given a tub of ice cream, they were more satisfied after licking it over a period of 30 minutes as opposed to devouring it in 5 minutes. If you snarf down your food in a hurry, there is inadequate time for your brain to get the message that you’ve eaten enough and it’s time to stop. Most fast eaters will “overshoot” and consume additional calories they would otherwise have been satisfied without.

Tips for eating slower

Your eating speed is a learned activity. Research with obese adolescents showed that they could retrain their habits in ways that would positively influence their “satisfaction” hormones. Here are a few tips for doing this:

  • Put down your fork between mouthfuls.
  • Chew well and swallow before you insert more food into your mouth.
  • Pretend you are eating at a fine restaurant. Most people eat slower under such conditions, savoring each “expensive” bite.
  • Apps such as Next Bite and Nutrition Gurus can help you to pace yourself.

Nutritionist Sue Radd is the award-winning author of The Breakfast Book and coauthor of Eat to Live, internationally acclaimed for showing how savvy eating can combat cancer and heart disease and improve wellbeing. See for more nutrition information.

Food Matters: Why You Should Eat Slowly

by Sue Radd
From the August 2013 Signs