Have you ever spent 30-45 minutes prepping and cooking a meal, only to scarf your food in a fraction of the time? Until recently, I found myself going through this pattern most nights at dinner, which always left me feeling overly stuffed, like I didn't allow my body the time it needed to digest my food. I started to wonder if I would take in fewer calories and feel more satisfied if I made an effort to stop eating so quickly.
With some research, I found a study in the BMJ, which showed that eating slowly was linked to lower rates of obesity and smaller waists. I decided it was worth a shot to see if I would notice any changes in my appetite or mood in the evenings. Then a friend suggested a super-simple solution: setting a timer.
Shockingly, I ate dinner in just under seven minutes.
That evening at dinner, I pulled up the stopwatch on my phone, determined to see how quickly I was eating. I started the timer at the onset of my meal and kept it going until I was finished. Shockingly, I ate dinner in just under seven minutes. I couldn't believe it, and I knew there was absolutely no way I was allowing my body the time it needed to decide if it was full before I mindlessly consumed everything on my plate. I decided that, from then on, I'd set a timer for 20 minutes and commit to not finishing my meal until those 20 minutes were up.
Let me tell you, it's harder than it seems.
Because I was in a habit of eating so quickly, I had to make a point to slow down between every bite, sip water consistently, and place my fork down on the table a few times throughout the meal. I kept my eye on the timer and tried to consume a quarter of my plate every five minutes to stay on track. It was a lot tougher than I thought it would be, but I will say that after just one night of eating slower, I felt noticeably better. I ate everything on my plate, but I was more aware of each bite and felt more connected to the nutrients and tastes — something I hadn't experienced before.
I enjoyed my food more when I was taking the time to savor each bite.
After a week of setting a timer and following my quarter-every-five-minutes rule, I learned to pace myself. And I can honestly say I enjoyed my food more when I was taking the time to savor each bite.
While I no longer set a timer at dinner, I have kept up those same habits. There are plenty of nights when I become full before my plate is empty, something that never used to happen when I was scarfing down my dinner in seven minutes. I save my leftovers and often eat them for lunch the next day or later in the evening if I get hungry again. Either way, it keeps me from snacking or eating dessert in addition to dinner, which wasn't always the case. Overall, I just feel better when I take my time, and I know I'm not consuming more calories than I need. I think most people would benefit from training themselves to eat this way — and it couldn't be simpler to do.