When it comes to losing weight and having the body we so dearly desire, most people focus on the age-old principal of eating less and exercising more. Few of us, however, pay any attention to how fast we eat. What’s speed got to do with it? As it turns out, a lot – for it just so happens that eating fast or eating slow can be a powerful determiner of body weight.

In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2009, eating a meal quickly rather than at a slow pace, diminishes the release of hormones in the gut that help create the feeling of being full. When these hormones – specifically PYY and GLP-1 are low, the unwanted result is simply this: overeating. The implication here is that the body needs time to regulate the chemical messengers that control our food intake.

According to another study, published in the British Medical Journal in October 2008 that looked at over 3,000 eaters, the combination of eating fast and eating until full had “a supra-additive effect,” and tripled the risk of being overweight. That’s a rather profound statement about the ill-effects of speed eating, and a great reason to pause and consider our eating options.

Eating fast is easy.

At the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, one of my favorite questions to ask a roomful of practitioners in training is this :“are you a fast eater, a moderate eater, or a slow eater?” Generally, I find that approximately 70% of people identify themselves as fast eaters.  In many ways, the invention of fast food has naturally led to eating that food in the very manner in which the name implies – fast. We live in a world that has a love affair with speed. We want fast cars, fast Internet connections, fast restaurant service, and fast results when it comes to losing weight.

Yes, speed is good, but don’t you think it’s time for a little more balance? If you’re the kind of person who’s been trying everything to lose weight but without lasting success, then maybe it’s time to get a little creative. It’s time for some slow. It may be helpful to think of slow as the new sexy. Consider this: if you really love something and thoroughly enjoy it, like eating or sex for example, would you really want to get it over within just a few mere minutes? If something is pleasurable, wouldn’t you want to make it last?

Nutrition experts and dietitians love to remind us, and rightfully so, that it takes the body approximately 20 minutes to realize that it’s full. If we eat fast or while in an anxious rush – which usually means without paying any attention, the brain literally does not have enough time to assess the nutritional profile of our meal. The central nervous system and our digestive tract are short-circuited in their ability to determine if our nutritional needs have been met. In the absence of this important information, the brain ultimately says something like “I know I just ate, I know there’s food in my belly, but I can’t quite figure out if I’ve gotten the nutrients the body needs, and if I’m indeed full. So I might as well play it safe and tell the body this: “I’m still hungry.”

What’s fascinating is how many people believe they have a willpower problem when it comes to food and appetite. We recognize when we’ve eaten a robust meal, but we can’t quite understand why we’re still hungry afterwards. It’s easy to conclude then, that we’re just a bunch of willpower weaklings. The good news though, is that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with our willpower.

The problem is, we eat too fast.

Let’s state this in the positive: slow eating is a natural appetite regulator and powerful nutritional practice when it comes to losing weight. But please, don’t be afraid that slow eating means chewing each bite 50 times, or that you’re being punished because you have to sit at the table and ruminate your food like a cow. Eating slow means eating sensuously, it means tasting your food, loving it, celebrating it, and feeling warm and fuzzy no matter what you eat.

A client I worked with years ago came to see me to lose weight. She was training for a fitness and beauty pageant and was quite keen on winning it. She’d won several titles already, and this was going to be her crowning moment. She arrived for her first session with her husband, who happened to be her personal trainer. They were both in shock because she had gained about 12 pounds since her last competition and couldn’t get the weight off no matter how little she ate and how much she exercised. They were both looking a bit distraught.

I was their last resort.

After an extensive intake, I could understand why they were so perplexed. She had every reason to be losing weight, but clearly her metabolism had another idea.

There wasn’t any dietary advice I could offer that she hadn’t already tried. Secondary to her inability to lose weight, she was in constant digestive upset after meals and chronically constipated. On an intuitive whim, I said to her “I bet you’re a really fast eater.” She shook her head “yes.” I explained that she’d likely lose the weight if she dramatically slowed down at every meal for two months.

She was mortified, and explained to me that her grandmother had said the same thing. I think it was a shock to her nervous system that her sweet, Sicilian, uneducated grandma, who’d raised her had arrived at the same conclusion as some expensive nutrition guy from New York City. I further explained that her digestive issues and constipation might also see some relief from slow eating as well. I couldn’t tell which was more important – losing the weight and the nagging symptoms, or proving grandma wrong. I think she settled on a combo of these.

After a few months, she lost 7 pounds, her weight reached a plateau, and her bowel movement and digestion returned to normal. I’d never seen someone be so happy (finally pooping) and so upset (couldn’t lose that last 5 pounds) at the same time.

I consider this a success story.

So the next time you sit down to a meal, give yourself the gift of time. Relax, turn on some music, light a candle, share with a loved one, fully consume some good conversation, and enjoy the metabolic power of slow. You’ll not only savor the eating experience, but you’ll naturally regulate appetite, maybe lose a few pounds, and most importantly, you’ll remember that your grandmother was right.

We love to hear your stories: what have you noticed from experimenting with your eating speed?

Warm regards,
Marc David
Institute for the Psychology of Eating
© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014

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  • Dayna W.

    Great article! Yesterday my sister told me I’m the slowest eater in the world. I have been working on eating slowly and not eating when anxious so it was a huge complement! I also love how specific studies are mentioned in this artice, the science behind it is all very interesting.

    • Hi Dayna —
      Good for you! You’re way ahead of the curve.
      So happy to hear you enjoyed the article.
      I’m always of the opinion that science will catch up to body wisdom eventually.

      Marc David

  • Susan Whelan

    A great article, I loved it as I have known about chewing our food slowly for a very long time but have not been able to master it exactly even being aware of it.
    The psychology behind this is a great insight for me and the tie with pleasure.
    It enables me to look even deeper and ask myself what my tie’s to food and pleasure actually are? Why do I want to get it over and done with? What is my connection or dis-connection to my food and sex even? So I am grateful for the insightfulness of your knowledge and sharing. Thank you. I truly will try to connect to my food more and connect to it being a sensual experience.
    Many thanks Susan. I love your clarity.

    • Hi Susan,
      It’s a hard habit to master. I think you ask a great question: “Why do I want to get it over and done with?” Our mind is all over the place, our culture doesn’t teach us to enjoy our food and eat in a relaxed state. We think we’re supposed to hurry into the next moment to get back into living our lives, but when we do that, we bypass the present. Good for you for noticing the need to go about it differently.

      Warm Regards,
      Marc David

  • Amelia

    Thanks for another great article Marc! I had lunch with friends last week & noticed I was only half way through my lunch & they had all finished. I also noticed my serving was half the size and just as satisfying. Every so often I catch myself rushing through a meal & stop. I chew slowly, enjoy the flavours & be grateful I even have food on my plate.

    • Amelia,
      Good for you! It’s a difficult habit to cultivate, but worth it!

      Marc David

  • Thanks for sharing this insight. I completely agree that eating slowly is at least half the battle to losing weight. Not only that, though, I completely agree that eating slowly is a lifestyle we can choose – we can choose to actually be in the moment and enjoy every single bite of our food without thinking, “what’s next?” or being stressed out by a situational event. All of that greatly affects our metabolism and general emotional well being, so eating slowly has other awesome benefits!

    • Hi Alison,
      That’s why I wrote the Slow Down Diet. Have you read it?
      You can find it here.

      Thanks for sharing your insights with us!
      Also, I noticed you are a chiropractor.
      My dad was a chiropractor starting back in the early 1950s.
      What a great profession 🙂


  • As a society we eat WAY too fast. We all just need to slow down and make it a real ritual – actually enjoy what we eat!

  • Jamie Massa

    Dear Marc,

    This was a great article for me. I have always eaten very fast and I have a weight problem.
    I’m really going to work on slowing down and savoring my meals. Thanks again,

    Jamie Massa

  • Jamie Massa

    Dear Marc,

    This was a great article for me. I have always eaten very fast and I have a weight problem.
    I’m really going to work on slowing down and savoring my meals. Thanks again,

    Jamie Massa

    • Hi Jamie,
      So glad you enjoyed the article. Eating quickly is a common habit for so many. Pleasure, relaxation and respect for both what’s on your plate and for you, the one eating, is a great place to start to shift and make changes.

      Best wishes,

  • Marianne Sciberras

    Hi! I see you suggested putting music on while eating..I’ve been encouraging people not to do that, maybe I’ve been a bit too strict about that. Thanks for helping me chill out about that. : )

    • Hi Marianne –
      Glad I could bring a little calm and some good tunes to the dinner table for you.


  • Matthew –
    Indeed, so many of our wisdom ancestors knew what was up when it came to energy and subtle intelligences in the body.
    I think conventional wisdom will always be playing some catch-up.

    Thanks for the insights,

  • Michaela

    I have always been a slow eater and by slow I mean, still going for a good 5-10 mins when the last person on the table has finished! It’s the way my body has always been; I physically cannot wolf down food at the speed that others seem to be able to. I have learned something from this article though that I will take away with me which is, not only will I be eating slowly but I’ll be savouring every bite from now on! Thanks 🙂

    • Hello Micahela,
      Good for you- that’s a good habit to have.
      So glad you’ll be keeping it up.


  • Simona

    Universe is built on balance and so everything search to balance itself- so I guess if we eat fast, the other looks for slow – metabolism, if we eat slow-ly – we may be gifted with quick metabolism! 😉

    • Hi Simona,
      Love it!

      Warm regards,

  • Lori

    I am new to all of this and the information you share here so I am like a sponge soaking all of this up. I am finding in everything I read from you that I fit a lot of the things you write about. I became a fast eater through being a parent and doing daycare. I really do eat fast without even thinking about it and when it’s not necessary to do. 🙂 Going to try this and see if it will help me to lose the weight that I cannot lose regardless of how little I eat or active I am. 🙂

    • Hi Lori,
      Thank you for taking the time to share with us. I’m glad you are connecting with our work. Slowing down and taking the time to savor our food can be a tough habit to get back into, but it’s so worth the effort! Wishing you the best!


  • Hettie

    Hi Marc
    I am in the throes of eating really slowly and tasting the flavours and the difference feels incredible!!!!

    • Hi Hettie,
      I’m so glad you are getting to experience everything that eating slowly has to offer! Thank you for reaching out and sharing your experience.


About The Author
Marc David

Marc David is the Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, a leading visionary, teacher and consultant in Nutritional Psychology, and the author of the classic and best-selling works Nourishing Wisdom and The Slow Down Diet. His work has been featured on CNN, NBC and numerous media outlets. His books have been translated into over 10 languages, and his approach appeals to a wide audience of eaters who are looking for fresh, inspiring and innovative messages about food, body and soul. He lectures internationally, and has held senior consulting positions at Canyon Ranch Resorts, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Johnson & Johnson Corporation, and the Disney Company. Marc is also the co-founder of the Institute for Conscious Sexuality and Relationship.