It’s a popular weight loss tip.
It takes about 20 minutes for your body to give you the signal that you’ve had enough food. It does this by making you feel full or satisfied, and so after that you shouldn’t want anymore food. So you’re advised to eat slowly so that you don’t overeat within that 20 minute window.
Makes sense. But when is common sense ever truly effective when it comes to dieting and weight loss?
Aside from preventing you from overeating (or at least letting you know when you’ve had enough), eating slowly is good for you in other ways as well. Firstly, if you do it long enough you will become a Buddhist monk due to all the mindfulness you experience. And if not a monk then at least someone who is qualified to run a retreat in a remote wilderness area.
Okay maybe not. But eating slowly does slow you down and that means you start to breathe easier and deeper, your muscles relax and you are more present with the people around you and with yourself. That awareness alone is enough to stop you from inhaling more food than you had planned to eat.
Your digestion is improved too, which means less tension, heartburn and discomfort in your abdomen. If it sounds like you’ve just taken a Prozac it’s because in a way you have. Eating slowly reduces your anxiety and so your body will reflect that.
You feel better overall, you talk more with your family, you become more aware and you enjoy your food more fully too.
BUT … WILL IT HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT?
On paper it should, but it usually doesn’t have much of an effect due to the following:
– Time: We never have enough of it and if anything life is getting faster, which means we rush through almost everything we do, including eating our meals.
– Hunger: Being really hungry is a tension that is difficult to tolerate so when we are famished we want that feeling to go away FAST, and that means a 5 minute meal. You know when you haven’t eaten much all day and are taken out to a fancy restaurant that serves microscopic portions so it can seem cool? You smile and tell your guest how amazing it is and after 3 hours of that you race to the McDonald’s drive through and wolf down a double Big Mac meal? Yeah, like that.
– Other People: It’s always awesome when you can blame others. At the table, people tend to mimic others in their levels of engagement, mannerisms and their eating speeds too. If the people around you are eating too fast be aware of it and see if you can slow the table down by pacing yourself and taking your time. If it doesn’t work, at least you will have enjoyed your food.
– Survival of the Fittest: Some people learned the habit early on, having had many siblings growing up and knowing that if they didn’t get their share quickly that it meant waiting until the next meal on an empty stomach. By the way, this type of parenting is no longer practiced, except in rural Alabama and by child-exploiting dads on YouTube.
– Anxiety: Slowing your eating down is supposed to alleviate some of your anxiety and that’s true IF you can manage it. Anxiety is powerful and is almost always there, we just don’t notice since we distract from it through work and being busy etc. It is the biggest reason why we eat so fast and the toughest obstacle out of everything listed above to overcome.
So, in short, the answer is no. Eating slowly generally won’t help you lose weight since it’s very difficult to do on willpower and mindfulness alone. The forces against it are too powerful.
WHAT TO DO
To get yourself to eat in a way that will allow you to lose weight and improve your health you need to do 4 things:
1- Set yourself up with a plan. Don’t worry so much about eating speed and calorie counting etc. To do that you need to …
3- Start some inner work. Your emotions are at the core of your behavior. Change those to change the way you eat.
Even though eating slowly won’t do much for your weight, it will allow you to enjoy your food more and bring awareness to how you are felling every evening which is perhaps the best reason of all to practice it.