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Monday, June 5, 2023



Speed eaters are not necessarily overweight but they might experience other health problems such as reflux, indigestion (‘heartburn’), and possibly even food poisoning. Some people are simply in a hurry to gobble down their ordinary sized meal. It is when speed eaters regularly move on to eat more that weight gain becomes a problem. Fast eating may lead to overeating but not in every person. 

Why do some speed eaters overeat?

The stomach, small intestine and a complex array of hormones and brain chemicals regulate appetite and satiety but it appears that they are too slow to kick in.

The popular thought is that it takes 15 to 20 minutes before the brain realises that the stomach has received enough food and you do not need anymore.

How does speed eating increase risk of reflux and indigestion?

Speed eating equals lazy chewing. Over-sized boluses of food are sent hurtling down the food pipe and the food is squeezed through the gastro-esophageal junction. If you flush each bite down with a drink, then you have gotten the ingredients for indigestion and reflux. The other speed eating trap for reflux and indigestion is when too much food is crammed in too quickly; the stomach is simply over filled and over-flowing.

Early treatment for reflux is exactly the opposite to speed eating behaviours. Treatment advice is to slow down eating, separate fluids from food, make the bite-size small and chew really well before swallowing.

What has food poisoning got to do with speed eating?

Although not all poisoned or contaminated food is detected by an off smell, tainted taste or suspicious appearance, some is. If you gulp it down bad food too fast, you may not notice an off or bad taste or smell until it is too late.

Why do you speed eat?

The pace of eating is influenced by external triggers (dining atmosphere, sounds, colours, lighting), whether you are in the company of other slow or fast eaters, and have a sense of urgency to move on and do other things.

We try to blame ourselves for being time-poor but if you set the alarm to get up 5 minutes earlier and you get 30 minutes for lunch then there is no need to rush the food down.

How long should you take to consume a meal?

How long you take really depends on what you are eating - the texture and amount served. It is not possible to put a hard and fast ‘time target’ for any meal.

If you are always first to finish regardless of what the meal is, slow down. For some people, it is not the duration of the single meal but rather how long between courses that matters more. Wait about 20 minutes before you choose whether to have more.

Tips to slow down the speed eater.

Even though slowing down is a hard thing to do for speed eaters who get no feedback like ‘heartburn’, reflux or indigestion, it can be done with a small amount of practice.

With practice and armed with a few tips they can slow down:-

1. Start by changing the environment in which you dine. Be selective about who you dine with. Avoid fast eaters. Avoid distracting and cluttered dining spaces.

2. Avoid stressful and excitable conversations at dining time.

3. Find the slowest eater at the table and mirror that person’s pace. Watch and mirror their every move including how much food they load on their utensils, when they put the utensils down, and the pace they lift the fork or spoon to the mouth.

4. Add conversation to the table and apply the etiquette of not talking with your mouthful.

5. Avoid eating with people you would rather not be with.

6. Put relaxing music on rather than high paced music.

7. Find a relaxing place to dine at rather than in a food court or at your desk.

8. Send your computer, phone or mobile tablet to sleep to avoid sudden text, message, phone and email interruptions that demand a quick swallow and hastened reply.

8. Dim the lighting. Perhaps use candles at night to create a relaxed feel.

9. Program your smart phone to timer mode or metronome beat and set your eating pace to match a preset slow interval.

10. If you watch the big screen whilst eating, avoid stressful news broadcasts or high-paced game shows. Tune into something more relaxing or choose a calm, slow paced DVD.

11. Avoid allowing yourself to get over-hungry. It is harder to slow down the pace when you are very hungry.

12. Do not automatically buy a dessert when you buy lunch. Eat the savoury part of lunch slowly. Then walk away and wait until the very end of your lunch break to decide whether you are still truly hungry for something more.

13. Do not set your heart on dessert the minute you look at a restaurant’s menu and do not order it as soon as the wait-staff clean away the main course plates. Wait at least 10 minutes - with a bit of luck, they will be equally slow at delivering the final course. By then, your brain may have had enough time to ‘see’ how full the stomach feels.

14. Put utensils down between each mouthful. This popular recommendation is hard to keep doing because old habits die hard. A ready-loaded fork is an entrenched and automatic habit so practice, practice, practice or shift to toddler sized utensils or swap to chopsticks used in the wrong hand.

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