Eating fast probably comes naturally to all of us. Hiking a long trail on my vacation in New Zealand a few days ago, I ate as quickly as I could when I stopped, because I wanted to get to the hut before dark.
I ate for the energy that I needed to finish the hike, not for pleasure. For once, I wasn’t concerned about the taste of the food or eating too much of it too fast.
This must have been the way my ancestors and yours ate back in the days when they went out on the hunt or to gather roots and berries. This comes naturally to human beings.
But nowadays we have much more food much more readily available. Normally we don’t have to be concerned about getting enough energy to get to our destination. We have the pick of the most tasty food from around the world. We eat for pleasure much more than for sheer energy.
With a different goal we need a different eating strategy. Specifically, we need to slow down so we won’t overeat. As a bonus, slowing the speed with which we consume our meals giaves us more time to savor them.
Eating slowly has been one of the hardest eating lessons that I have had to learn. Not until I admitted to a friend that I always eat too fast have I been able to control my eating speed. My acknowledgement to another person was the key to controlling my behavior.
We have to fully accept the truth of our existing state before we can expect to progress or to heal. Recognizing and admitting our own problem is the necessary first step towards change. This is perhaps because the light of awareness or acceptance or humility is in itself a healing. If we are forever in denial about where we are stuck, we will continue to overlook the keys that are out there that can set us free.
Once I fully accepted that I ate too fast, I adopted some specific strategies. I had always told myself that I ate fast just because I didn’t want my hot food to get cold. So I started with food that we normally eat at room temperature, like a salad.
Then I consciously told myself to put down the fork or spoon between bites. Now I completely chew what was in my mouth before picking it up again.
While chewing, I don’t do anything else except concentrate on the wonderful food that I am eating. Now, I really taste my food.
Eating more slowly means for me that I don’t eat as much as I did before. This is because of the fact that was long well known to me that our bodies and brains need some time, like about a quarter of an hour, to register that we are full.
The great food that we get now can be so much better and so much easier to obtain then what our hunter-gatherer ancestors were able to eat. We owe it to ourselves to savor it.
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.