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November 1, 2011 1:50 PM   Subscribe

How do I slow down my eating?

I've started guzzling food, at an extraordinary rate, even when I'm eating with other people; the food arrives, I immediately start feeding my face with a rabid, mechanical intensity, zone out, and look up only when the plate is empty--huge plates of food disappear in a wink of an eye, and I'm left sitting at a table with an empty plate, like a particularly greedy raccoon, as everyone enjoys their meal and conversation like civilized people. It is totally uncute and more than a little rude.

The thing is, I love food. I love to eat and I love to cook, but at this point it's almost as if I don't really taste what I'm eating. It's like, when food is put in front of me, my mind switches off and fixates on the following goal: eat it all, right now, faster...FASTER. I'm wondering if this might have something to do with the fact that I generally eat by myself, in front of the TV or while reading in between various duties and errands, like work, working out, ironing, showering and sleeping.

How do I learn how to slow down and savour my meals? What are some techniques for training myself to put down my fork and talk or pay attention to what I'm doing? How do I not be a totally gross dinner date?
posted by superquail to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Every three or four forkfuls, I look up and see how much everyone else has eaten so far and then either eat until I'm there, or wait until everyone has caught up to me to start eating again.

A lot of people will tell you to just eat when you're eating: no TV or books or any kind of distractions, but I find that makes it worse. So, you can try it, but if you get easily bored don't feel too bad if you find yourself eating even faster due to boredom (regardless of how good the food is.)
posted by griphus at 1:56 PM on November 1, 2011

Best answer: One thing that could help is paying careful attention to your manners, for the most part they're designed to slow eating and avoid precisely the shoveling you're describing. If you're sitting straight, bringing your food to your mouth rather than vice versa, and using your silverware correctly, it's very difficult to mow through your food like a convict.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 1:58 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Mindfulness is the only way. With every bite, put your fork down and chew twenty times. Take a sip of water. Add to the conversation. Repeat, stopping every 3-4 bites to compare progress to everyone else as griphus suggested. If you're already way ahead, increase your activity in the conversation and maybe tell a story or something. Anything to distract yourself.
posted by The Michael The at 1:59 PM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Chew your food very, very thoroughly.

Finish chewing before you put another bite on your fork.
posted by goethean at 1:59 PM on November 1, 2011

This may be improper in terms of etiquette, but what about sipping your drink between every few bites of food. Make eye contact with your company.
posted by sunshinesky at 2:00 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Put the fork or spoon in the opposite hand. The awkwardness may slow you down.

At home, plate each component separately & bring out one plate at a time.
posted by dragonplayer at 2:00 PM on November 1, 2011

Best answer: Put down your utensils after every second bite, and count to 15 slowly before picking them up again - with others, this is easy to do because it makes it seem like you're really engaged in what they are saying, but even when you're by yourself it's a good habit to get into.

If you're eating utensil-less food like pizza or a burger or something, put it down after every other bite and do the same thing.
posted by pdb at 2:02 PM on November 1, 2011

Have a glass of water and take a drink every few bites or even every bite maybe.

I agree about the manners. Eat a bit of food. Take a drink of water while you look around. Use your napkin. Don't bend over your plate. It'll all slow it down.

Also, I will be laughing the rest of the day about your being "a particularly greedy raccoon".
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:02 PM on November 1, 2011

This is so weird. I was actually just thinking about this last night, because I tend to do the same thing.

I realized that, for me, it's because I don't like eating in public. It's not got anything to do with any sort of disordered eating--I eat just fine and don't care that people know that I eat--it's that I find the act of eating kind of intimate. We take care of all of our other basic needs in private (we poop alone, we wash alone, we sleep alone or with a trusted partner, we have a wank alone or with a trusted partner), but for some reason, cramming nourishment down our food holes is typically a social activity. I even feel intrusive watching other people eat, even if they don't care.

It's not a big deal, and it's not something I obsess over or really even think about, but the idea that eating in public is strange is always sort of subconsciously there. And for that reason, when I'm eating with others, I tend to snarf down my food pretty quickly and/or talk or do something to distract myself from the fact that I'm also eating. When I'm eating at home, whether by myself or with my boyfriend or family, I'm more relaxed and take my time.


I don't think it's that big a deal that you eat quickly. But if you want to slow yourself down a bit, you can do what I sometimes try to do and use the silverware to pace yourself. Instead of clutching your knife and fork the whole time, place them down on the plate every few bites. Take a rest. Make sure you've chewed and swallowed everything in your mouth. Have something to drink. Maybe chat a bit. Then pick up your utensils and start again.

And try not to think about how weird it is that everyone around you is swishing a bunch of digestive enzymes around in their mouth while they're talking to you. (It's a little like chatting to someone while they're taking a dump in the next stall.) But maybe I'm just weird. :)
posted by phunniemee at 2:03 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do you do anything else pretty patiently? If so, maybe try doing that thing extra patiently next time, and pay attention to what patience feels like in your mind and body. Then transfer this attitude to eating.

I think of patience as the habit of noticing stress-caused tension and releasing it — coming back to the present reality. Meditators use their breath as an anchor; that can be very helpful.

Patience, like silence, can be a bit uncomfortable sometimes. The more you do it, the more lovely it is. Eating can be a really good way to create some serious peace in your life, and who doesn't need some more of that?

Whenever I talk about this I sound like a dharma talk CD... :/
posted by mbrock at 2:04 PM on November 1, 2011

I eat painfully slow. I put my fork down between every bite and consume a lot of fluids while I'm eating, probably taking a sip of whatever I'm drinking every 2-3 bites. I've also never mastered the eating-and-chatting-at-the-same-time thing, which means that when I'm talking, my fork is sitting on my plate and my food is getting cold. Practice doing some of these things at home and make sure you're at least sitting down for all your meals. Eating directly out of the fridge or over the sink is a surefire way to get in bad habits.

Also remember that is apparently takes your brain 20 minutes to notice that your stomach is filling, so eating slowly should help you maintain your weight if you're doing it right.
posted by jabes at 2:04 PM on November 1, 2011

Chopsticks. For everything.
posted by jbickers at 2:05 PM on November 1, 2011

The key to me was the idea that I wasn't really tasting what I was eating, even though I ate large portions of it.

I just started to savour every bite, and take smaller bites, but otherwise don't worry about speed.
posted by utsutsu at 2:08 PM on November 1, 2011

Are you waiting until you're very, very hungry to eat your meals? Due to medical reasons, I've started eating something every 2-3 hours, which has kept me from being ravenous at key meal times. And when I'm not ravenous, I'm far less inclined to stuff my face.
posted by litnerd at 2:09 PM on November 1, 2011

Be the one who is talking.
posted by rhizome at 2:15 PM on November 1, 2011

• Put bite of food in your mouth.
• Put down fork.
• Chew your food.
• Swallow.
• Pick up fork.
• Repeat.

Basically, make it impossible for you to be loading-up the fork even before you've started chewing. Eventually, you will learn to take your time.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:35 PM on November 1, 2011

Are you waiting until you're very, very hungry to eat your meals? Due to medical reasons, I've started eating something every 2-3 hours, which has kept me from being ravenous at key meal times.

I was going to suggest this as well. I used to eat very quickly, and I realized it's because I was eating very little before going out (my thinking being, well, I'm going out later, so I'll save my appetite). But this made me a bad dinner guest, and rather cranky before the food arrived. So now I eat smaller meals all day, and if I go out, I can eat slowly, and make pleasant conversation.
posted by bluefly at 2:46 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Five Chips Encounter.

I don't know anything about this site, but this particular exercise strikes me as helpful for appreciating food through mindfulness and by re-engaging the senses. You may want to google "mindful eating" for other tips.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:55 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Putting your fork down is one idea, but let's not get you into bad table manners.

Try to eat with someone. Conversation always slows a meal down.

If you're unable to find someone to eat with, count to ten when you put something in your mouth before you swallow.

I was with someone who could eat a nice sized cheeseburger with fixins in about three bites. I finally said to him that it's really embarrassing to eat with an animal in public. Maybe if you remind yourself to take human bites, you'll be able to slow down.

Good luck!
posted by Yellow at 4:51 PM on November 1, 2011

Eat spicier food or food that is served very hot.
posted by anaelith at 5:02 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I second the idea of eating with your offhand. For one thing, it'll come in handy (heh, handy...) if you ever can't use your primary hand. For two, it'll be awkward as hell at first and you'll HAVE to eat slowly or you'll end up wearing half of your food.

If you're ambidextrous, though, I got nothin' for ya.
posted by Heretical at 6:00 PM on November 1, 2011

jbickers: "Chopsticks. For everything"

In my experience (and look at my username when you read that) chopsticks will just encourage you to shovel things into your mouth faster.

No, what you want is painfully formal English fork and knife etiquette. Steam some peas, mash some boiled potatoes, grill yourself a whole steak all in one piece, and serve the food on a flat plate. Hold the knife in your right hand, take your fork in your left hand, and saw one tiny little bit of steak off the slab. Put it in your mouth, chew, and swallow. Now take up a little pat of mashed potatoes, smear it onto the back of your fork, and then use your knife to press a few peas into the potatoes until they stick. Put that in your mouth, chew, and swallow. Repeat until you are satiated, run out of food, or give up.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:04 PM on November 1, 2011

I'm afraid I must disagree with my esteemed colleague d.z. wang; what you want is American table manners, specifically the American approach to silverware. For each bite that requires cutting, take your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right and cut one bite, then lay your knife down and switch your fork back to your right hand and bring the enforked morsel to your mouth. Chew, swallow, exchange witticisms and gossip as appropriate, and repeat. Despite what you'll hear, American style is infinitely more civilized than Continental (though only in American contexts; when in Rome, do as Romans do) because it slows the ritual of eating even more: requiring more time between each bite and freeing you up for more conversation with your dining partners.

With chopsticks, as my e.c. avers, shoveling is de rigeur, so adjust accordingly.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:38 PM on November 1, 2011

I do this when I'm either ravenously hungry or stressed out and tense. I've started eating small, low-calorie snacks (an apple or a few crackers) more often than I used to so that I don't get so hungry that I shovel down everything in the house at meal time. I would also look at the rest of your life; are you rushing everything all the time and it's carried over into rushing when you eat?
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 11:09 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

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