Confession: I Am a Fast Eater

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It seems as though I am always in a hurry. I’m not too sure if this is because I have so much to do or if this is just part of my type A personality. From the moment I get up in the morning, to the minute my head hits the pillow, I am either doing something or thinking of things I need to do. I have a to-do list a mile long. My goal is to check off as many of those tasks at the end of each day. For any uncompleted tasks they are either added to the following day's list or I abandon them completely. I’m not too sure why I feel so compelled to be in such a hurry about almost everything, but meal time is the one area I am consistently coming up short when it comes to slowing down.

One of the last unhealthy habits I am really hoping to break is rushing through meal time. A habit that I can trace back to the days of my youth when I would spend 15 minutes in the lunch line at school, leaving little time to eat AND talk with my friends. Studies have shown that the faster we eat, the more calories we consume and the fatter it makes us. Last month when I led SparkPeople's Official Healthy Habits Challenge, I wanted to finally break this habit of eating too quickly. So I started doing research on the steps to take to break this habit and in my research I discovered this is quite a common problem for many of us. Because we live in such a fast pace world where fast food restaurants can be found in almost any American city, this fast pace eating can be linked to the obesity epidemic.

It takes approximately 20 minutes for the stomach to signal to the brain that it is full. Because of this fact, many times I would be done with my meal before my brain ever got the signal, therefore I would find myself fending off the after-lunch or after-dinner munchies even after eating a full meal.

Below are a few tips they may help you slow down your eating. Meal times should be enjoyed and not rushed. And while I would like to say I have mastered many of the tips, some I have, and others I am still working on.
  • Drink a glass a water before eating your meal
  • Put your fork down in between bites
  • Pre-cut your food into very small, bite sized pieces
  • Take a sip of water in between bites
  • Enjoy and savor every bite
  • Avoid overloading your spoon and/or fork
  • Turn off the T.V. and put on slow music
  • Thoroughly chew each bite before taking the next bite
  • Avoid distractions--in other words try to avoid eating in front of the computer, television or reading a book at meal time.
  • Do not feel the need to feel stuffed. Remember it takes time for the stomach to signal to the brain that it is full.
  • Begin your meal with a salad. Eating raw veggies takes longer to chew which allows time to past before eating your entrée.
Changing unhealthy habits, that for many us that have been a part of our lives longer than we care to share, takes time. When we put thought behind the behavior we desire to change, it’s only a matter of time before we no longer have to think we just do, therefore we have developed a habit. Allowing ourselves the time to transform, even if it takes weeks and months, is just another leg of an ever-changing journey called life.

Do you find yourself rushing through a meal? If not, do you have any other ideas to help me slow down?

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I tend to wait until I am just feeling famished to eat; that's when I eat too quickly. I find that if I snack throughout the day, I'll eat slower at the regular mealtimes. Report
I've always been the slowest of eaters, at holiday my family where we eat our holiday dinner is always clearing the table before I finish. I rarely get seconds which is good and if someone comes in a little late for the meal they have time to finish before me but I don't mind the razzing I get. Dessert is always later for everyone else and then they realize how full they are from dinner so they should be thanking me. I just smile and go merrily on my slow pace that I've set for myself. I even did this when I factory worked and would get into trouble so my lunches got smaller or something I could take back to my work station to munch on throughout the afternoon. Report
Yep, this is my biggest problem with eating! I eat like someone will take it away. I am trying to remember to slow down, because when I do, I get full faster and eat less. Report
I've worked in health care for many years and got conditioned to a 30 minute lunch break. This includes heading to the cafeteria or other lunch area, preparing your food and gobbling it down as fast as you can before heading back to the ward and better not be even 10 seconds late. It was even worse when I was still a smoker.

I'm working on eating more slowly but it's not easy after all these years. Thanks for the tips! Report
I noticed I was a fast eater when I was a kid. Everyone would be starting in on their meals and i would be finished. This really became a problem for me when my boyfriend (now husband) would take me out to eat and I would be done eating way before him and i would just sit there feeling embarrassed while he continued eating. I felt like everyone was looking at me like i was a pig. Thanks so much for the tips i need to try this out. Report
Even through all the "trick", I still find myself eating too quickly. Ive been trying to slow ti down, but its sure difficult to do.... Report
I eat so fast that my meal is over before everyone at the table. I am ready to clean up before they are done. Thanks for the tips. Report
All great tips. Report
I can remember my mother nagging me about eating too quickly when my age was still in single digits. For me I like my hot (temperature) foods hot and my cold foods cold. At an early age I figured out that if I ate quickly then I didn't have to deal with lukewarm/lukecold food.
Does anyone have any ideas for me?
I eat way to fast when I am overly hungry. That is why I try to eat six times a day so I am not so famished I swallow everything down. Report
good tips--this is one aspect of my eating that i forget about the most, and its scary how my dad easily takes twice as long to finish the same type of meal as I do, while i'm done and off to something else. he's also been uber skinny his whole life, and quite fit. he doesn't eat many meals a day, but when he does, he takes his time with them, and is satisfied in the long run.

can't believe that didn't occur to me til now. glad i read this today (and i think i did okay with breakfast, but i'll keep checking. i need to put this in my goals, too, now) Report
Eat with others. If for no other reason than the desire to not stand out due to bad table manners, eating with others helps me to eat more slowly. Report
WOWEE. This is DEFINITELY a problem for me!! When me and my boyfriend have dinner, I'm usually the first to finish so I'm left staring into space as he's still eating. It is really embarassing. I guess, like some others have posted, I want to take in all the pleasure I can get as fast as possible!!! I will definitely be working on this. When I used to take 20 minutes to eat, I was very successful with my weight loss. Report
There are some great thoughts here and in the comments, but I'd like to add a somewhat different perspective: we're always being told to eat more slowly and to never eat while watching TV. I have to say that, fo me, at least most of the time, I actually eat less (when I am using SP, that is) while watching TV. It's much harder for me to pace myself when eating in a group and if I do finish early, it's really hard for me to not eat more just to be sociable. Under my normal, everyday conditions, my SP tools guide me to select what I should eat and I eat it fast, in front of the TV without any sense of guilt, knowing that I am OK with what I have planned. Then, after, say 20 minutes of The Office on the DVR, I am ready to hop up and do something active again! So, for whatever that's worth, maybe sometimes it's not the worst thing in the world to eat quickly. Report
This covers one of the habits I believe will permanently my reduce my weight. Tasting every single bite of food, good or bad, healthy or not, that I put into my mouth. I just don't think I'll eat as much, for as long or as often. Report
Many of these comments could have been written by me. I am a really fast eater, too. My sisters tease me about a little bit, and it is embarrassing after someone I eat with notices. I try some of the tricks above, but I forget. It's like trying to speak my husband's first language regularly...I remember for one meal, maybe, but then I'm back to my old ways. Report
I make a mental list of things I want to notice about my food i.e. texture, crunch, taste, temperature. When I have noticed these things with each bite I swallow and pick up my fork again for the next bite. Eating consiously and really noticing what goes in my mouth has helped slow me down a lot. Report
I, too, am a too fast eater. When we were younger, my sister nicknamed me :"whirlwind gut" and pointed out that I also left more crumbs around my plate than anyone else in my family. I have tried many things, like counting chews and using a dental device, but even that didn't slow me down. I am ready to try again and I will be perusing this blog and the other entries for helpful (healthful?) clues about how to finally get it right. Report
I eat so fast sometimes and don't realize it until I am finished, finally look up and see everyone else is still eating. I am embarreased and realized I didn't even really taste my food. What a waste to consume the carlories and not enjoy it! Report
I try to be secretive about my eating habits. How did you know you were describing me to a "T".

Guess I will have to own up to needing this blog. Report
I have been a fast eater all of my life too. I remember when I was a kid, my siblings and I weren't allowed to watch TV until after dinner because we had to be doing homework or playing outside for the 4 hours after school. So we'd race to finish our food because the first one done got to pick what we watched - kid rule, not parent's rule. I still do it and I especially find myself doing it with things I love, as if I can't get enough of what I'm eating.

I appreciate the suggestions for slowing down because I really need to learn how. I actually find that if I eat while I read a book or work on a computer I eat slower, since my hands are occupied during the meal, I can't sit and shovel it in - the TV is a different story. I've also started eating on my balcony to make my meals more of a special event rather than a necessity. Report
I am a fast eater, so is my husband. our kids on the other hand eat very slow, that is a good thing I hope they keep that up. I have tried to slow down. I am going to try some of these tricks to help me slow down. I don't like it when I go out to eat with friends and I am always the first one done. I get kind of embarassed. My mom always tells me "no one is going to take it away from you". And I know that, they might get a finger bitten off. haha.. Report
I've been eating fast ALL my life. I've only recently started to slow down and enjoy my food. It's really hard but I find that I don't eat as much and feel a lot more satisfied. Report
Finally! Something I can say that I know how to do right!

I learned many of these tips, esp. putting your fork or spoon down between bites, cutting food into small pieces, and taking a drink between bites, from my early days at WW years ago. Now I am the last one in the group to finish eating. They're usually done and plates cleared, just sitting there, visiting and sipping on their drinks, while I'm still finishing my meal.

This has an added advantage. I find out I'm full most of the time, even earlier than I had planned -- even if I've already divided the meal in half and put the other half in a doggie bag!

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I eat rather slowly. I do talk a fair amount, so I'm always the last one to finish eating. lol. Report
I don't think I eat very quickly unless I'm starving. Usually I like to enjoy the taste of my food and will savor it but not too slowly so that it gets cold. Oh, that is a major thing. If I think my food is going to get cold then I will eat it fast. Not willing to re-heat my food in the middle of a meal! Report
I tend to shovel my dinner in as quickly as possible. I know it's horrible, but it's a time issue. So much to get done in the evenings and not just not enough time to do it. However, at work it's very different. I eat at my desk and eat very slowly. I take a bite inbetween continue to do my work. So sometimes it can literally take me a good hour to eat a whole sandwich. Report
Oops, I was just about to eat my lunch in front of the computer while catching up on SP. Guess I'll go sit at a table instead...

But! I am constantly telling my son to eat more slowly, put your fork down between bites, finish chewing before you take the next bite, etc etc. Compared to him, I'm a sloth. But I'm still relatively fast. One thing that slows down a meal is if you are in a group and actively making conversation - perhaps some kind of turn-taking discussion with family, for example. (Everyone answers a particular question in turn, stuff like that.) Report
I was never what you call a slow eater, but having children definitely speeded it up moreso. Lately, I have been trying to slow down - sometimes I suceed, sometimes not so much. Report
I have the opposite problem ... I eat very slow .... sometimes taking 2 hrs to finish a meal (an average size one) Report
I have never been a fast eater. In fact, I am usually the last one to finish my meal. After my RYN I did not have problems because I am a slow eater. I do not eat in front of the TV or computer. I enjoy my meals and find some days I have a hard time getting enough calories and fats especially. Report
I too am a fast eater - and when eating distracted, I suddenly find it "gone - hmmm, what WAS that???" You had so many good tips. Today is my first day on my weight-loss journey (again) and I will keep in mind what you've written. Thanks. Report
I was a fast eater until I had kids. Now that they are getting older and can feed themselves I need to break this habit. Report
I've picked up and employed a lot of the habits on this list since joining SparkPeople... but I disagree with the wisdom that says "don't eat in front of the computer" or "don't eat while you're distracted". In my experience, it depends on the distraction. If I'm eating alone, I often eat in front of the computer, or while doing a crossword puzzle. It actually slows me down a LOT. Why? Because I always have something else in my hands besides tableware or "finger food"... a keyboard and a mouse, or paper and pencil. If I have to stop and put down my "distraction" in order to pick up my food and take another bite, it adds that much more time to my meal. And occasionally I get so engrossed in what I'm doing that I'll discover myself actually taking several minutes between bites! That may be *too* long of a meal for some folks... but as for me, I certainly don't have any problems giving my stomach plenty of time to send those signals of satiation to my brain! ^_^ Report
This is a habit I am truly trying to break - no one is going to steal my food. I think I developed the habit during my first marriage - my husband was in the Navy and he ate FAST - so, in order not to be left at the table alone I picked up the habit. Now, that should have stopped over 34 years ago as that is how long we have been divorced! Can't really blame this on him can I? LOL I am conscious of the habit and I do work on it. Thank you for the additional suggestions! Report
I'm a fast eater, but I am trying to do better. I like to blame it on the fact that I'm one of six kids, so if we were having anything good, you had to be quick or you got very little! Report
Thanks for sharing...I too eat really fast. someones gonna take it away from me. Then I realize it's all gone! How? But then again, most everyone in my family is a fast eater. Thanks again for bringing this up...I definitely will take more notice & be conscious the next time I eat. Report
I used to be a fast eater, then I started adding large servings of fruits, veggies and salads to my meals with much smaller portions of other things, including one of my favorites, Spaghetti! I found that by eating everything else before the Spaghetti or other part of the meal, I ate much slower and much less. Too, as I ate less and really tasted all the veggies, I found I wanted more and more of them verses the higher calorie foods.

Don't get me wrong, I still have those other things but they are in their proper place rather than being the main part of my meal or only thing in my meal. I also found that the more I ate of the veggies and fruit, the more I love them. Report
Fast eater myself! I used to get made fun of by friends because I would be finished long before anyone else with my meal. I grew up being told that if I didn't finish my plate then my dad will (of course I couldn't allow that).... I will never do that to my children! Those are learned behaviors that are hard to change! Report
I am such a fast eater! I really try hard to slow down, but I always seem to be done with my meal long before my husband is. I think its cause I am always trying for that "perfect bite", the one with a little bit of everything in each bite. Not sure if that's a good or a bad thing but I do know I eat to fast and really struggle trying to slow down, guess I will just have to keep at it, thanks for the tips. Report
If I feel like I'm starving I eat fast, lol! Normally I'm a slow eater, enjoying my meal. Report
Wow there is alot of people who share this trait including myself. Maybe this is a key element to this weight issue. I'm a speed eater with very good choppers and a great galut. My son who is so thin eats painstakingly slow. I have tried to slow down but need to always remind myself before I eat to take it slow. I also find myself resisting the slowness of it so it's an effort. When I really chew every bite so carefully it seems part of the enjoyment is gone for a funny reason I cant pinpoint. With time it will come more naturally and I sure have cut down on the amount of food I eat so the slower time it takes is necessary because if I ate the smaller amount at the previous speed I would hardly spend any time eating. I will visually imagine the grossness of lets say a hot dog eating contest and tell myself that IS NOT my goal in life. Report
I really enjoyed reading your tips. We always ate as a family when my Dad came in from work. But as my Mom said, "We always ate as if we were off to a fire." (We had a volunteer fire department in my home town.) But as soon as we were finished eating everything on our plate and did the dishes, we could out to play until dark. Who knew that encouraging us to eat everything on our plate and eating so fast would lead me to where I am unhealthy weight! Report
When I met my husband, he would wolf down his meal without a chance to even taste it. I chalked that up to an Army man habit. However, since my own stint in the Army I have begun to indulge in that habit as well. I too, am trying to slow it down because many times I am still hungry after eating my meals. So, I am truly going to take these steps very seriuosly. Report
I've also had this problem since I was in grammar school. We only had 25 minutes to eat, and then we would have recess, which is silly because you're exercising on a full stomach. I've kept this habit. I'm always in a rush or doing three things at once. It's SO hard not to eat in front of the computer or eat and read a book. This is some great advice, though! Report
I used to eat very slowly, I was always the last to get done eating everywhere I went and no matter who I was with. Then I traveled a lot for work and ate by myself. I picked up a bad habit of eating fast. I do cut my food into small bite size peices (something I started when I traveled, it made reading while eating easier but also made me eat faster). I also take too big of spoonfuls or forkfuls (which is also a fairly new thing to me as I have a small mouth and if I fill it too much I end up biting a cheek or lip). I hate eating fast and wish I could get back to the old times. Report
i find that i am eating slower tjhan i used to but if ia starving then i inha;e down my food...
i find that a conversation while eating helps the process, talking to your kids/sig. other/friend/roomie, etc serves the duel purpose of keeping in touch and can fill in some quality time as well as keeping a good pace for eating Report
I can so relate to this blog, this is my biggest weight loss obsticle and I'm pleased that you shared this with us. Thank you. Report
I tend to eat fast when it's food I like or I'm really hungry. Report
One dish meals can be a help or a hindrance to slowing yourself down. Soft food like casseroles can too easily be "shoveled in" while crunchy salads or stir-fries with larger pieces take time to chew. They can also provide what I call a "boredom factor" if the dish has a lot of low calorie filler food (like lettuce or even broth of a soup) to provide the right serving size. You have to eat so much that you get tired of eating the same thing so you don't (and cannot) keep stuffing yourself past the point of fullness.

Healthy distractions such as the conversation of a meal shared with friends and family can be helpful. Eating alone can be too conducive to rushing through a meal to get over the loneliness. While TV distractions while eating idly may be a problem, I think radio or TV deliberately chosen for company while dining to provide a reason NOT to rush may work for some people. Report
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