How to stop eating so fast

Fast eating: How to stop eating so fast
Nutrition
Disordered Eating
Written By:
Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN

Have you ever looked down at an empty plate and realized you ate so fast you hardly tasted the meal? Or maybe you're always eating on the go between meetings or school drop-offs and barely have time to chew your food. If this sounds familiar, you aren't alone.

Eating too fast can lead to major digestive discomfort, overeating, and even increase the risk of long-term health concerns. But there are steps you can take to slow down, and make your meals more enjoyable.

First, give yourself some grace and know it takes time to change a habit. An important step is to examine your patterns to better understand why you're speeding through your meals. 

 In this article, we'll explore why some people eat too fast, how it affects your health, and tips on how to stop eating so fast so you can enjoy your food.

Why is Eating Too Fast a Problem?

  • It's hard to tell when you've had enough. Hormones in your gut secrete satiety signals to tell your brain you're full and help control appetite. If you eat too fast, you may have already overeaten by the time the brain recognizes you're finished. Studies suggest that people who eat more slowly feel fuller and eat less throughout the day because their body has time to adapt.
  • Increased risk of metabolic health concerns. Undesired weight gain, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome are some health concerns research links with eating too fast. Eating too fast often leads to overeating, affecting how nutrients are used and stored in your body.
  • Digestion issues and discomfort. When you lose the ability to listen to the body's natural hunger and fullness cues, you can also develop digestive problems.Eating too quickly can lead to inadequate chewing, which can cause gas, nausea, bloating, acid reflux, and other uncomfortable symptoms.
  • Loss of pleasure and enjoyment. Eating too fast robs you of the sensory pleasure that comes with eating food. Tasting, smelling, and savoring meals helps you connect with your food, enjoy the experience of eating, and understand when you're full. Plus, racing through meals may create a stress or guilt response after you've eaten.

Why Do I Eat So Fast?

We are all unique, but here are the most common reasons for eating too fast:

  • Hunger. Ever felt so hungry you just want to grab the first thing you see, finish it, and still feel unsatisfied? This may happen after skipping meals or not eating enough during the day. Your body will take in as much food as possible but it's often more than you need.
  • Disordered eating habits. Black-and-white thinking, or labeling food as "good" and "bad," can be a set-up for speed eating. With eating disorders such as orthorexia (a hyper-focus on eating only self-labeled "healthy" foods), there can be a sense of urgency to devour a particular off-limits food because you "shouldn't" be eating it.
  • Stress and emotional triggers. Eating can also be a way to temporarily numb or distract from uncomfortable emotions. Emotional eating is not usually about eating for pleasure or hunger, but instead you may use food as an escape from those feelings.
  • Influence from others. If you have a large family or grew up in a home where food wasn't always available, you may have learned to eat faster. When food is scarce or even if you're used to eating in a rush, it can become a natural habit even when the environment has changed. 
  • Distraction. It could be work or watching your favorite show, but sometimes we are just distracted by our environment and don't even realize how quickly we're eating.

Tips to Stop Eating So Fast

Benefits of slowing down when you eat range from enjoying your meal to better digestion and metabolic health. Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Chew Each Bite Thoroughly

Chewing your food jumpstarts digestion and encourages mindful eating, allowing you to savor each bite and truly enjoy the experience of eating. It also gives your stomach and brain time to communicate so that you can stop eating when you're full instead of when the plate is empty.

  1. Put Down Your Fork Between Bites

Take a second to place your fork down between bites. You can do this to practice eating more slowly, even if it feels a little silly. The simple act of taking a pause helps slow things down and keep you present with food.

  1. Eliminate Distractions

Life is busy, and enjoying your meals at a perfectly curated table is not always an option. But whenever possible, sit down, turn off the computer or television, put your phone somewhere else, and focus on the food in front of you.

  1. Stay Nourished 

Regular meals and snacks keep your appetite and blood sugar stable, lowering the chance you'll eat too fast due to hunger. Plus, you'll feel better because you won't be deprived of essential nutrients.

Need Extra Support? A Dietitian Can Help

Sometimes feelings of stress or anxiety surrounding food make it challenging to make changes. If you're struggling with eating too fast or feel shame or guilt associated with your eating habits, a registered dietitian (RD) can help. 

A dietitian can help you discover the why behind your eating behaviors and develop a plan individualized to you. Nourish can pair you with a dietitian, and your insurance can even cover the cost. It may take time, but you can make long-term changes with practice, support, and self-compassion. Use Nourish Now. 

References

  1. Gastrointestinal satiety signals - American journal of physiology
  2. Slow Down: Behavioural and Physiological Effects of Reducing Eating Rate
  3. Faster self-reported speed of eating is related to higher body mass index in a nationwide survey of middle-aged women. Journal of the American Dietetic Association
  4. Eating fast leads to insulin resistance: findings in middle-aged Japanese men and women.
  5. Association Between Eating Speed and Metabolic Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
  6. Towards human well-being through proper chewing and safe swallowing: multidisciplinary empowerment of food design. 
  7. Orthorexia Nervosa: An Obsession With Healthy Eating. 
  8. Food Insecurity and Eating Disorders: a Review of Emerging Evidence.