Brits only spend 41 minutes of their day, total, to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. To break that down, that means an average eating time of 8 minutes for breakfast, 13 minutes 45 seconds for lunch, and 19 minutes 27 seconds for breakfast.
Americans take just a bit more time, with an average of one hour and 14 minutes a day spent eating the three major meals.
While any one of us could easily justify the need for speed when it comes to eating (after all, there are always so many more things to get done in a day!), people who eat too quickly are likely to become obese, or develop metabolic syndrome, both of which increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke – all of which can be deadly.
Your Body on Eating Fast
When you rush through a meal, no matter what time of day it is, your digestive system can’t keep up. When that happens, it can’t trigger the little flags in your brain that let you know you’re full. Inevitably, you overeat.
When you’ve ingested something, it takes a while for your stomach to catch up anyway – about 20 minutes, in fact. The process doesn’t start until your stomach begins to stretch. So if you slow down and give yourself a little more time, you may find that if you stop eating sooner, you won’t eat excess foods.
Eating slower gives your stomach more time to start working on the food
Think about the last time you were really hungry. Once you got your hands on food, you probably found yourself capable of eating just about everything in sight, and doing it quickly! You also probably suffered from serious heartburn later on. This is due to your stomach trying to catch up with the pace at which you were sending all that food down.
Eating slower and taking at least 20 minutes to eat at a time, allows your digestive tract to get a head start in the process of digesting the food.
Additionally, when you eat too quickly, air gets into your stomach and overloads it. While this can produce more acid leading to heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), it can also make you embarrassingly gassy.
Eating at a slower pace can help you enjoy your meal
Granted, you’ll already enjoy your food more if you don’t have heartburn, GERD, gas and bloating, but slowing down when you’re enjoying a meal can help you savor whatever it is you’re eating, as it allows you to be more aware.
You’ll find that you’re more aware of the texture, flavor and smell of the food, making the meal more interesting and memorable. This is especially great if you’re eating at a restaurant and you want to enjoy the moment.
How to Adapt the 20 Minute Eating Rule
If you have a habit of eating a lot, and doing so quickly, you won’t change that overnight. However, there are plenty of tips you can use to improve the time you take to eat a meal and eat as slow as 20 minutes for each meal.
1. Choose high-fiber foods that take more time to chew
What could you eat faster, raw broccoli or a breadstick? The high fiber, fresh veggie will take you longer to eat, simply because of its texture. Plus, the nutrients will fill you up faster! While you’re learning to slow down your eating habits, you’ll also be building some really healthy ones!
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2. Put down your utensils between bites
This tip can feel daunting, but it isn’t as bad as you might think. In between bites, set down your utensil. It’s a small move, but the action forces you to slow down, even the smallest amount, and really focus on checking in with your body to determine if you’re full or not yet.
3. Try setting a minimum number of chews per bite
When you aren’t breaking down your food into tiny pieces, it can be very challenging to digest later on. Try to set a minimum number of chews per bite. This can be five or thirty-five, whatever feels best to you. Once you get into the habit, you won’t even have to count anymore.
4. Find another slow eater and pace yourselves to them
If you are aware you eat quickly, it’s probably because someone you dine with has pointed it out to you. The next time you eat with them, focus on the pace in which they consume their meal and match up to them. You don’t have to mirror them to the point they are uncomfortable, just find some self-awareness.
5. Talk with people who eat with you and slow down your eating pace
Be sociable. When you’re dining with someone, carry on a conversation. You’ll be amazed at how much less you need to eat to feel full.
Slow and Steady Wins
As you approach your next meal, and every meal thereafter, try to treat the experience like a memory to be made. If you go into the experience aware of the need to make it memorable, you may find yourself having an easier time slowing down to eat.
No matter how you have to train yourself to slow down, you’ll be grateful you took the time to do so. No meal and no rushed timeline is worth losing your health.