A lot of people eat their food fast and mindlessly.
It’s a very bad habit that can lead to overeating, weight gain and obesity.
This article explains why eating too fast may be one of the leading drivers of weight gain.
Eating Fast Can Make You Overeat
In today’s busy world, people often eat quickly and in a hurry.
However, your brain needs time to process signals of fullness (1).
In fact, it may take up to 20 minutes for the brain to realize that you’re full.
When you eat fast it’s much easier to eat a lot more food than your body really needs. Over time, excess calorie intake can lead to weight gain.
One study in children found that 60% of those who ate rapidly also overate. The fast eaters were also three times more likely to be overweight (2).
Bottom Line: It takes your brain around 20 minutes to realize that you’ve had enough to eat. Being a fast eater is associated with overeating.
Eating Fast Is Linked to an Increased Risk of Obesity
Obesity is one of the biggest health problems worldwide. It’s a complex disease that is not simply caused by poor diet, inactivity or lack of willpower.
In fact, there are complicated environmental and lifestyle factors at play (3).
For example, fast eating has been studied as a potential risk factor for becoming overweight and obese (4, 5, 6, 7, 8).
One recent review of 23 studies found that fast eaters were approximately twice as likely to be obese, compared to slow eaters (9).
Bottom Line: Fast eating is associated with excess body weight. In fact, fast eaters may be up to twice as likely to be obese compared to those who eat slowly.
Eating Fast Can Lead to Many Other Health Problems
Eating fast may not only increase your risk of becoming overweight and obese.
It may also lead to other health problems, including:
Insulin resistance: Eating too quickly has been linked to a higher risk of insulin resistance. This condition, characterized by high blood sugar and insulin levels, is a hallmark of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (10, 11, 12).
Type 2 diabetes: Eating fast has been associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. One study found fast eaters were 2.5 times more likely to get the disease compared to those who ate more slowly (13, 14).
Metabolic syndrome: Rapid eating may increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that may raise your risk of diabetes, heart disease and many other common health problems (15, 16).
Poor digestion: Fast eaters commonly report they experience poor digestion as a consequence of eating too quickly. They may take larger bites and chew their food less than slow eaters do, which may affect digestion.
Lower satisfaction: This may not be a health problem, but it’s still very important. Fast eaters tend to rate their meals as less pleasant, compared to slow eaters (17).
Bottom Line: Eating fast may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. It may also lead to poor digestion and decreased enjoyment of food.
How to Slow Down Your Eating
Eating more slowly may provide various health benefits.
It may increase your levels of satiety hormones, help you feel more full and decrease your calorie intake (1, 17).
It may also improve your digestion and increase your enjoyment of food.
If you want to eat more slowly, here are a few techniques you can try:
Don’t eat in front of screens: Eating in front of a TV, computer, smartphone or other distraction may lead you to eat fast and mindlessly. It can also make you lose track of how much you’ve eaten.
Put your fork down between each mouthful: This will help you slow down and enjoy each bite more.
Don’t get too hungry: Avoid becoming extremely hungry between meals. It can make you eat too fast and make poor food decisions. Keep some healthy snacks around to prevent this from happening.
Sip on water: Drinking water throughout your meal will help you feel full and encourage you to slow down.
Chew thoroughly: Chew your food more often before swallowing. It may help to count how many times you chew each bite. Aim to chew each mouthful of food 20–30 times.
Eat foods rich in fiber:High-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables are not only very filling, they also take quite a long time to chew.
Take small bites: Taking smaller bites may help you slow down your eating pace and make your meal last longer.
Eat mindfully:Mindful eating is a powerful tool. The fundamental principle behind it is to pay attention to the food you’re eating. Some of the exercises above are practiced in mindful eating.
Like all new habits, eating slowly takes practice and patience. Start with just one of the tips above and develop the habit from there.