Why? “Most of the mechanisms involved in satiety, the feeling of fullness and satisfaction, take time,” says Kathleen Melanson, Ph.D., who has studied how eating speed affects health at the University of Rhode Island. “And certain fullness hormones aren’t even released until food starts to empty from your stomach, which can take a half hour or more.” Slowing down allows your body to sense when you’re not hungry anymore. So what’s a reasonable eating speed? A grilled chicken breast with a side salad, fries, and a glass of water should take you at least 32 minutes to eat. (Most of us polish it off in 21.) Some tricks to help you slow down:
Don’t keep up with the guys.
Men down about 80 calories per minute, on average, compared with our 52—and since they need to eat more in a day, the speed’s not a problem for them. But if you match a man bite for bite, you’re eating too fast. (Group meals can also lead you to chow down faster, as you rush to join the convo.)
A key technique for slowing down, according to Melanson: Chew each bite 15 times (you’ll only have to count at the beginning; then you’ll get used to the rhythm). After you swallow, picture the food traveling down your esophagus before digging in again.
Beware finger food.
Using a knife and fork can slow your eating rate by 54 percent, so try having your pizza with silverware. Smaller utensils help too—say, a teaspoon instead of a soupspoon for ice cream.
Watch out for processed stuff.
But not just for all the usual reasons. People who choose whole-grain carbs eat almost 30 percent more slowly than those who have refined grains, since all that roughage requires extra chewing, Melanson’s research found.
And how about a little candlelight?
When Cornell scientists tricked out a Hardee’s with mood lighting and soft music, people ate more slowly—and ultimately downed 133 fewer calories. A relaxing atmosphere keeps you from rushing, researchers explain, while a bright, loud joint prompts you to eat quickly. Dimmer switch and Michael Bublé, anyone?