Almost all of us eat too fast, with too many distractions around us. It's hard not to - we have to feed the kids, rush between work obligations, multitask, catch up on the latest news, the list goes on.
We are busy. Time is money.
Australians in particular are not very good at consciously making time to eat slowly and mindfully. Many of us pride ourself on our fast-paced, hard-working culture while we scoff our food down at our desk or in the car.
Without doubt, this is a real problem in our society.
When we eat too quickly, or without full attention, we miss important hunger and fullness cues, along with other cues, such as how certain foods make us feel.
We also become unaware of how much food we are eating, and as we are eating so quickly, we 'miss' the signals from our body telling us that we are full - leading to an excess of energy intake.
Also, if we get used to eating while doing other things, we start to feel like we should be eating when we do those things. A perfect example is at the movies - who hasn't noticed those people that devour an entire meals worth of popcorn and chocolates before the movie even starts?!
The habit of eating slowly makes you more mindful of what foods are going in your mouth, the volume of food that is going in, and how those foods make you feel, physically.
So how can we get around this habit?
1) Set a meal timer. Time how long it takes you to eat a meal, and record a baseline for a few different meals. For example, do you eat breakfast particularly quickly? Do you eat a carbohydrate dominant meal more quickly than a protein dominant meal?
Once you've identified interesting data from timing yourself, it's time to act. If you eat dinner in 4 minutes, aim for 6. If you eat breakfast in 6 minutes, aim for 8.
Somewhere around the 8-10 minute mark per meal is the sweet spot.
2) Do something in between bites. This is a fantastic way to become more mindful of how much you're eating. For example, in between bites, you could;
- Set down your utensils
- Take a breath (or three)
- Take a sip of water
- Engage in the table conversation (fancy that!)
3) 'Wine taste' your food. This will appear odd to many, but it is a fantastic trick I learnt from one of my clients. When we taste fancy wine, we search for the flavours and let it sit in our mouth, being conscious and savouring it. Try the same with food. Chew it slowly, smell it, savour it, and enjoy it.
4) Eat without distractions, such as the TV, newspaper, mobile phones or laptops. This is often a surprisingly difficult task, so try just one meal per day, and build from there.
5) Pace yourself to the slowest eater. If you're with a group of people, find the slowest eating person and match their speed. My brother is the worlds slowest eater, so it works well for me at family gatherings. Kids are often great too, as they are bite - then play.
6) Be mindful of what affects your eating habits. Is it who you are eating with? Is it when you eat? Is it the types of foods you are eating? Is it a location in which you are eating? Being mindful of all these factors will help put the pieces of the puzzle together and really help change this habit.
Whilst definitely not uncommon, eating too quickly could be a major factor holding you back from achieving great results. This is the basis for habit based change - the key to long term success.
Drew is a personal trainer and nutritionist and is the co-founder of Evexia Wellbeing. Drew specialises in long-term habit change, body composition training, and mindset.