Sometimes speed eating is hard to avoid: You overslept and scarfed down a quick breakfast before work, for example. But regularly racing through your meals could be taking its toll on your waistline.
New research, published in BMJ Open, tracked 60,000 participants with Type 2 diabetes for almost six years and found that those who ate quickly had higher BMIs and were more apt to be obese than their slower-eating peers.
Several other studies reported similar findings: In New Zealand, researchers followed 2,500 middle-aged women and found a connection between speed eating and higher BMI and Japanese researchers reported fast eaters weighed almost four pounds more than slow eaters.
“It takes time for the stomach to signal the brain that it’s full,” explains Marisa Moore, RDN, who practices in Atlanta, Georgia. “Eating too quickly may lead to overeating. When it’s done regularly, it can lead to calorie overload and potential weight gain.”
Eating quickly may not just affect your weight. Scarfing down your dinner could also harm your health.
Recent research, published in the journal Circulation, followed 1,083 participants for five years and found that more than 11% of fast-eating participants were diagnosed with metabolic syndrome compared with just 2.3% of slow eaters. (Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of metabolic disorders, including abdominal obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and elevated fasting glucose that are linked to a higher risk for heart disease.)
Eating more mindfully can help prevent overeating, which is good for your waistline and your heart, notes Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director for the Joan Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Health and an American Heart Association spokesperson.
HOW FAST IS TOO FAST?
Not sure if you’re eating too fast? Goldberg suggests thinking about your meal. If you can barely remember tasting the food, it’s a sure sign you need to slow down at mealtime.
“Schedule time to eat [and] chew your food slowly so you can taste it,” she says.
You can also take cues from your dining companions, according to Moore. If you’re always the first one to finish while others still have more than half their food left, chances are you’re a speed eater.
There are also several physical symptoms associated with speed eating.
“You will often find out after the fact [that you ate too quickly],” Moore says. “Eating too fast may lead to indigestion, gas and bloating and you might find that you feel stuffed all of a sudden.”
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TIPS FOR SLOWING DOWN
If you want to lose weight — or just hate chronic post-nosh heartburn and indigestion — Moore offers this advice:
If you’re among the 2/3 of Americans who eat dinner while watching TV, put down the remote (and log out of social media accounts and email) and eat at the table instead of on the sofa or at your desk.
“Making an effort to be more mindful at mealtimes can help you slow down and savor your food versus scarfing it down while [doing] some other task,” Moore says.
Next time you sit down to a meal or grab a snack, focus on chewing and savoring each bite.
“Often times, we take a bite but don’t actually enjoy the flavors and textures of the food,” Moore says.
Taking a more mindful approach to mealtime — rather than inhaling food and moving on to something else — helps slow down the eating process. Moore also suggests putting your fork or spoon down between bites or using your non-dominant hand to eat and help slow the pace at meal times.
“Taking time to eat a little slower is about more than just preventing acid reflux and feeling overstuffed, it may also help with weight management,” she explains.