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Can You Lose Weight by Eating Slowly?

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With such hectic lifestyles we often do things at a million miles an hour – and that includes eating as well. We can become distracted with work, technology and social interactions that affect our ability to control our eating and savor our food properly – instead we just throw food down our throats and don’t give it a second thought.

But can eating too fast lead to weight gain? and by slowing down could we promote weight loss?

In this article we’ll take a look at the benefits of controlled eating and science behind how it affects weight control. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Why eating quickly may be causing weight gain
  • The benefits slow eating
  • Why chewing is important

The Benefits of Slow Eating

Eating is a complex process that requires a number of mechanical and chemical functions working together. The time it takes to fully digest and eliminate a meal varies but takes roughly around 6-8 hours.

It has been claimed that slow eating can improve digestion, increase taste, meal satisfaction, and even hydration. This is because by eating slowly we give our brain enough time to register what is happening and react accordingly – our brain sends signals telling us that we are full.

When we rush our food we don’t give enough time for the brain to send these signals, causing us to eat just that little bit too much. It would make sense then that by eating slower we can control our calories much better. 

According to one researcher, “eating slowly may contribute to a lower risk of obesity, probably because it could aid in appetite control” [1]. Let’s have a look at what science says…


Eating Quickly may be Causing Weight Gain

The speed at which you eat may be affecting your weight. This is backed up by a number of studies that report very clear links between speed of eating and body mass – quite clearly, those that eat quickly often tend to have higher body weights.

For example, a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology [2] found that eating fast would lead to obesity.

In this study of around 5000 middle-aged men and women, the association between the rate of eating and obesity was investigated by self assessment – the volunteers were simply asked to rate how quickly they ate. As well as this information, the researchers collected data on body mass index (BMI) and their diet over a one-month period.

The results suggested that body mass index increased as speed of eating did. Those that ate ‘very fast’ or ‘relatively fast’ were much more likely to have a higher body weight – more so as they aged.

Similarly, Leong et al [3] found that faster eating was associated with higher BMI in middle-aged women. In 2009, a large sample of women were recruited from electoral rolls in New Zealand and asked to complete a questionnaire containing questions on self-reported speed of eating, demographics, health conditions, menopause status, physical activity, height, and weight.

After analysis, the results suggested that for every category increase in self-reported speed of eating there was a 2.8% increase in BMI. 


The Benefits of Slow Eating on Weight Loss

Contrary to fast eating practices, slow and controlled eating has been found to boost weight loss.

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics [4] found that eating slowly significantly lowered meal energy intake. In this study, normal weight and overweight volunteers were asked to eat lunch slowly on one day and quicker on another day – it was the same meal on both occasions.

Meal energy density was lower when eating was slower, as were hunger ratings after the meal. Interestingly though, the overall amount of calories eaten was only lower in the normal weight group for slow eating, not the overweight group.

In another study [5], 30 healthy women were asked to eat the same meal on two separate days but at different speeds – satiety, perceived hunger, desire to eat, thirst and taste quality were all measured.

The study found that whilst total food intake was on average higher in the speed eating group, satiety was lower. Not only that but meal ‘pleasantness’ was higher in the slow eating group too.

In an interesting study by Galhardo et al [6], a group of obese teenagers were ‘retrained‘ on how to eat slowly in the hope that it would help them lose weight.

Each of the volunteers used a mandometer – a specialized monitor that gives feedback on speed of eating – in order to regulate their eating patterns. When food was eaten slower, the group exhibited lower mean levels of fasting ghrelin – an important regulator of appetite – as well as other satiety hormones. The authors of the study suggested that externally modifiable eating behaviors actually regulate the hormonal response to food and could be important for those wanting to lose weight.


Chewing Food Makes a Big Difference

When you eat slowly it forces you to chew your food more thoroughly, and this is beneficial as it starts the process of digestion.

When you chew food a process called ‘mastication‘ occurs- your saliva begins to break down the starches in your food. It also mechanically shreds the food into smaller pieces so that once it arrives in the stomach it can be broken down further, and with less effort.

If you don’t effectively shred your food, or coat it with enough saliva, it forces the stomach to work harder to digest it.

A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics [1] found that controlled chewing was an effective strategy to reduce eating rate in a group of 45 people.

They reported that when volunteers were asked to eat a lunch of pizza until ‘comfortably full’, those that chewed 50% more than their normal chewing count had a 9.5% reduction in total food intake and for those that doubled their chews, a 14.8% decrease in intake was reported.

Similar results were seen in Physiology and Behavior [7] with a group of 48 healthy adults. They were asked to eat 152g of boiled rice, whilst their chew rate was measured using a muscle contraction measuring device. The results found that obese participants chewed much less than their normal weight counterparts interventions and that counseling aimed at slowing the rate of ingestion could be promising behavioral treatments for obese persons.

Additionally, due to males having a greater chewing power than females, their eating rate was on average much quicker than females.

One aspect of thorough chewing though is that it may make your eating too controlled, reducing enjoyment and potentially creating bad relationships with food. Use your discretion and find a balance to what suits you best.

Summary – Does Eating Slowly Help You Lose Weight?

It has been claimed that slow eating can improve digestion as well as improve taste and meal satisfaction. This is because by eating slowly we give our brain enough time to register what is happening and react accordingly – our brain sends signals telling us that we are full and can begin digestion.

When we rush our food we don’t give enough time for the brain to send these signals, causing us to eat just that little bit too much. Over time this adds up and can lead to weight gain.

Research suggests that those who are overweight or obese typically weigh more and that eating quickly contributes to weight gain over time. When slower eating speeds are adopted, sensations of fullness occur much quicker which can lead to reduced food volume intake and calories. Food ‘retraining’ using timers and measuring devices may reduce the enjoyment of food, but helps in promoting weight loss. Additionally, focusing on chewing food properly also promotes reduced total food volume, as well as good digestion.


  1. Zhu, Y et al. Increasing the number of chews before swallowing reduces meal size in normal-weight, overweight, and obese adults. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014; 114(6): 926-31.
  2. Otsuka, R et al. Eating fast leads to obesity: findings based on self-administered questionnaires among middle-aged Japanese men and women. J Epidemiol. 2006; 16(3): 117-24
  3. Leong, Sl et al. Faster self-reported speed of eating is related to higher body mass index in a nationwide survey of middle-aged women. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011; 111(8): 1192-7
  4. Shah, M et al. Slower eating speed lowers energy intake in normal-weight but not overweight/obese subjects. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014; 114(3): 393-402
  5. Andrare, Am et al. Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008; 108(7): 1186-91
  6. Galhardo, J et al. Normalizing eating behavior reduces body weight and improves gastrointestinal hormonal secretion in obese adolescents. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012; 97(2): E193-201
  7. Park, S et al. Differences in eating behaviors and masticatory performances by gender and obesity status. Physiol Behav. 2015;138: 69-74