Like most people, I never really noticed the speed at which I ate. That is until I went on a business trip and sat down to eat with a registered dietitian. Most of our group had arrived late but we still were able to meet at a restaurant to have dinner and get to know the team. Regardless, because we were running late, I wasn’t paying much attention to my food; instead, I was thinking about all the things I still had to do that night: check in to the hotel, unpack my luggage, make a good first impression on my new colleagues, etc. Ironically, my distracted, hurried eating was making a not-so-great first impression on the registered dietitian.
How many of us take the time to think about think about how quickly we eat?
Sometimes, we may eat at a normal pace, but on other occasions when we’re more pressed for time, we may rush through a meal as if it’s some kind of marathon! The dietitian explained to me later that many weight loss programs teach patients how to eat slowly to lower their caloric intake. Slower eaters can recognize when they’re full, whereas fast eaters eat too quickly for their body to send a signal that their stomach is full.
Eating while rushed or distracted can cause us to overeat, and not allow for full enjoyment of a meal. It’s important to enjoy mealtimes and to think about what you’re eating. Often, when we are distracted while eating, we overlook portion size, eat too quickly to realize we’ve eaten enough, and forget about eating a nutritionally balanced meal.
Those who regularly eat for speed are also prone to more unhealthful eating habits, such as:
- Skipping breakfast
- Eating right before bed
- Snacking after a meal
A major aspect of eating is enjoyment. We should eat to be healthy first of all, but the enjoyment of meals is also a part of being healthy. Our bodies have a natural biological process to keep us fueled for the day, so understanding how and when we get hungry will help us avoid eating in a hunger-induced rush.
5 tips for mindful eating:
- Chew slowly.
- Eat regularly by planning your meals.
- Limit distractions during mealtime.
- Focus on taste, smell, and texture of your food.
- Think about the nutrition of your meal, such as the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fuels.
I wasn’t thinking about the immediate impression I was making with my dietitian friend, but even worse, I wasn’t thinking about the lasting damage I was making to my health by rushing my meals. After my experience with the reality of my not-so-healthy habits, I started to become more aware of my body’s digestion, what I ate at meals, and how I felt afterward. It all began to come together as I learned that meals were not simply a task to finish, but a simple and effective way to maintain a healthy life.