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In certain countries and cultures, a meal can last for hours. People sit around a table, whole extended families gathered, and they talk, eat and drink late into the evening. In the U.S., that just doesn’t happen anymore. The average meal is 11 minutes long – with some breakfasts and lunches lasting barely 2 minutes.
Personally, my breakfast falls into the 2 minute category. It is just something I get done every day and move on. I do better at lunches and dinners –- though this is mostly because I have toddlers who make every meal take extra long.
But is eating fast a problem? Should we be concerned? The answer is “yes” and here are some of the reasons you (and me, and everyone) should eat more slowly:
Taste Your Food: One obvious benefit to eating more slowly is that you will taste your food more. If you double the amount of time it takes you to eat a meal, you’ll experience more of the flavors, textures and smells of the food you eat. Your food will become more interesting.
Lose Weight: While you are slowing down, you might find that you learn to stop eating sooner. You might notice that you are full and don’t need that extra bite. Studies show that "fullness" is a complex concept that combines the number of times you chew, the time you spend eating, the look of the food on the plate, as well as the actual amount of food you eat. Slow down and you may feel full with less.
Choose Better Foods: When you eat slowly, you end up tasting your food more. This is good because the more you pay attention to your foods, the more you will prefer natural, healthy foods. Here’s why: Most factory produced foods are carefully designed by food engineers to taste great for the first 3 or so bites. After that the food begins to taste bland and uninteresting (if you don’t believe me, try eating a name-brand cookie for a minute). You feel an urge to eat another cookie or potato chip after just a few chews. If you slow down and be sure to chew thoroughly, these heavily processed foods will taste pretty disgusting (again, if you don’t believe me, try chewing a potato chip 25 times times – it gets real nasty). Natural foods, on the other hand, stay interesting as you chew them. A strawberry starts out with a burst of juice, but then stays interesting as you chew. Oranges, nuts and vegetables are the same.
Be More Social: Eating can be a social event. Meals are a time when people gather and spend time together. Once the meal is over, everyone goes their separate ways. By taking more time at a meal, you’ll be able to talk with your friends and family more, improve relationships and feel more connected.
Stop Before You’re Full: It takes your stomach about 20 minutes to produce the hormones that tell your brain that you are full. This process doesn’t start until your stomach begins to stretch. If you slow down, you give yourself more time to feel full. This gives you a better chance of stopping before you "get stuffed."
Improve Your Digestion: Eating slower gives your stomach more time to start working on the food. When you send an entire meal down your throat in 5 minutes, you may find yourself suffering from indigestion. Instead, take 20 minutes to eat the same amount of food. Your stomach will have a much easier job. Eating slower might also result in you chewing more, giving your stomach a head start in the digestive process.