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Slow Is The New Sexy*

I eat too fast. I’ve eaten too fast for as long as I can remember. Many times over the years (and here on this blog) I have made pronouncements about trying to eat more slowly, to be more present at meals, blah blah blah.

I even made a little sign that says “slow down” and it’s taped to the chair opposite where I sit at the dining room table. And that’s all well and good for dinner (if I pay attention to it) but it doesn’t address all the other times I eat during the day.

I give myself a lot credit for being aware of my too-fast-eating and as a result, I am sometimes able to catch myself. I am also becoming aware of the reasons I eat too fast, and the conditions under which it happens: sometimes it’s because I am excited and just want to get done with the eating; sometimes it’s because I’ve let myself get too hungry; and other times (and these are the times it’s hard for me to notice) it’s because I am stressed or upset.

But you know what? Until recently, eating slowly has been just one more “should” for me…something I knew was good for me, but didn’t really understand. And I tend to resist stuff I don’t understand (go figure).

What comes next is not news, I didn’t make it up, and some of it I already knew, but it has changed my rather flip attitude about how I eat and makes me really want to slow down.

We live in a stressful world (duh) and our bodies have become used to existing in a constant state of low-level stress (anxiety, fear).

When we’re in this state, our bodies’ physiological response includes an increase in blood pressure and heart rate as the blood rushes away from our cores (digestive area) and to our brains and limbs so we can think and move quickly. Our digestion shuts down, slowing calorie-burning capability.

That’s exactly what we need if we have to escape from lions and tigers and bears oh my.

Add to this that when we feel bad about our bodies, when we think we’re not good enough, or “I’m too fat and I can’t control myself and I am so stupid and bad,” we’re INCREASING our stress response. Our bodies interpret these thoughts as stress. So, if the method you choose to lose weight makes you feel any of these things, you’re more likely to gain weight rather than lose it, while using your chosen method of weight loss.

Add to that, eating too fast, which is also registered by our bodies as stress, and we’ve got a lot going against us in terms of being able to lose weight…and none of it has anything to do with the actual food we’re eating (or not eating)!

So basically, you could be eating the healthiest food on the planet but if your body is in stress response mode (due to actual stress or stress you choose) you won’t be getting its full nutritional value because your body is excreting (versus absorbing and assimilating) vitamins and nutrients. And when your body doesn’t get what it needs from food, you remain hungry.

This reminds me of what my naturopath explained to me back when I had Lyme disease and hormone imbalance. She said that Lyme neurotoxins block cell receptor sites, so metabolic processes do not work optimally. Hormones (including thyroid), which also help control metabolic processes, can also be affected by Lyme disease. Because my body wasn’t able to get the nutrients it needed and because I wasn’t feeling well, I was always hungry and turning to food for comfort. I felt out of control and pathetic. I was stressed and desperate. And the cycle continued.

By contrast, the relaxation response prompts full, healthy digestion, vitamin and nutrient absorption, and calorie burning power. So, slow and relaxed eating is the key to healthy weight loss and a more positive body image.

Another important factor is pleasure, which is a catalyst for digestion and relaxation. I’m not making this up…pleasure is a physiological requirement. Without it, our bodies respond by wanting to eat more. Really. That’s why I can eat a small bit of really good dark chocolate and be satisfied, but give me M&Ms or similar and I want (and often eat) the whole bag. Fast.

One more thing: “pleasure” and “slow” are chemically and emotionally connected. If you’re moving too fast, you can’t experience pleasure…whatever it is you’re doing, you need time to register it with all senses in order for it to be truly pleasurable.

So all of those woo woo things that I believe – that self-acceptance and loving your body right now are more powerful than diet alone – actually have a basis in science and fact.

Now, it’s time for me to really slow down, relax, and enjoy my food.

What about you? Do you believe the science? How fast do you eat? What, if anything, are you doing to slow down?

*Marc David


  • Posted September 19, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    I don’t tend to eat too fast. Just when I’m not hungry:( But I am not “aware” of my eating, not “in the moment,” often watching TV or reading.

  • Posted September 20, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I also used to eat very fast, but have slowed down a lot lately. Part of it has to do with living on my own – Craig used to eat even faster than me.

    I do believe that our emotions have an influence on our body chemistry. It’s all controlled by the limbic system of the brain. Our emotions and the beliefs surrounding them have a very powerful effect on our physical wellbeing.

    I love the leisurely pace of my life right now. Yes, I have deadlines at work, but my life is so deliciously uncomplicated and uncluttered that I don’t mind being present (lightbulb moment there!).

    I agree with your that a lot of our problem with hunger has to do with nutritional deficiency due to poor absorbtion.

    Interesting post, Karen! We can all benefit from slowing down.

  • Posted September 20, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Thanks for your post! I don’t have this problem however, I eat as slow as a tortoise running a race.

  • Posted September 20, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful post. And true. I find that when I eat the slowest, is when I’m eating a beautiful meal full of healthy items and usually something I’ve made myself. I enjoy it much more and appreciate it much more when it’s something I took the time to prepare and infuse with love. :)

  • Posted September 21, 2011 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    I believe the science, but I have a hard time living it many times. To slow down while eating, I try to have a good conversation with the people that are eating with me instead of just eating. Or if I’m eating alone … I try to savor every bite … like close my eyes, inhale deeply, savor the flavors and the textures before I swallow. (it would look really odd if someone peeked in my window when I eat alone)

    The whole thing with pleasure is interesting … and I have to admit, I am more satisfied with a small piece of good, dark chocolate than a large amount of some cheap generic version of chocolate.

  • Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    Sometimes I eat so fast, I forget to savor the goodness. I hate that! Goodness-savoring is very important. Totally need to slow it down. And now you’ve given me scientific reasons that back it up!

  • Posted September 21, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I eat waaay too fast.
    but Ive never found it impacts how much I eat really as my slow comes AFTER I finish whats on my plate and I sit sit sit for a bit.

    that said, Im hoping my eating slows now that Im not competing at every meal with the child whose fingers are all over my plate.

  • Posted September 21, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I sometimes catch myself shoveling giant mounds of food into my mouth – sometimes before I finish the previous one. I HAD SAID “Whoa there Mama Cass!” to make myself stop. I stopped doing that because even though it amused me, I think it was a little self destructive. Now when I am lacking something or having some low level background stress (which is what I think causes the shoveling) I put the utensil down finish chewing what is in my mouth, tell myself to slow down and enjoy my meal, take a deep breath and tell myself something positive and then do a few bites where I put the fork down in between bites. It sort of recalibrates me.

  • Posted September 21, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Yes, to this! Definitely will help the tummy cause when we are stressed & eat too fast, well, indigestion & more! 😉 PLUS, it takes the stomach 20 minutes to register full so if you slow down, hopefully you will eat less as your tummy registers the food.

    I am a mindful eater but I do admit that I like my hot food hot & my cold food cold & not room temp so that is something I have had to work thru especially wanting my hot food hot! :-)

    In general, I am able to control my eating either way because I have been at this so long…

  • Posted September 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    I eat very fast most of the time, because I have this impulse to “get it over with.” It’s very sad. It’s the same impulse that causes me to want to eat all of my allotted calories for the day (which is a big issue in and of itself!) early in the day, just so that I don’t have to count calories all day and be horribly anxious because I am anticipating that I’m going to “mess up.”

3 Trackbacks

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