How eating speed influences your weight

Thursday, February 22, 2018. Author Geraldine Cambell

Eating slowly will help you eat less and lose weight

Life can be hectic for many of us. We are juggling jobs, family, hobbies and other responsibilities while trying to lead a healthy lifestyle. But this non-stop approach to life may force us to eat breakfast on the go or squeeze lunch into the only 10 minutes you have free in your working day. This speed-eating could partly explain why you haven’t achieved your weight loss goal. Unfortunately, unlike speed-skating, there are no gold medals for speed eating!

Speed, Quality, and Volume

A recent large-scale longitudinal study, which followed almost 60,000 middle-aged Japanese males and females over six years, found that those who ate more slowly halved their risk of increased BMI and were on average 0.41 cm smaller around the waist [1]. This link between speed of eating and weight gain has been seen before, even when accounting for differences in physical activity levels [2]. 

Changes in waist circumference are a particularly good indicator of responses to diet and exercise interventions, as they are more sensitive to positive outcomes (e.g., reduced body fat percentage or lower risk of cardiovascular disease) compared to BMI [3].

Although a 0.41cm decrease in waist circumference may sound trivial, studies show that even a small reduction in waist circumference can have a significant effect on metabolic and cardiovascular health [4].

Furthermore, combining slower eating with other good lifestyle behaviors, such as not eating within 2 hours of sleeping, not snacking after dinner and getting adequate sleep, will have a much larger impact on your BMI and waist circumference. In turn, this will reduce your risk of many preventable diseases linked to poor body composition, such as Type II diabetes and heart disease [3].

Taking the time to savor your meals - each and every bite - could be a key player in your weight loss or maintenance journey. The speed at which you eat should be given equal consideration to the types of foods and the amounts you eat. By slowing down your eating, you may allow yourself to recognize satiety (the feeling of fullness) before you’ve eaten too much. You may also alter the release of anorexigenic hormones (those that terminate eating) so they are released in higher levels, causing you to eat less [5-7].

On the flip side, fast eaters have been found to overeat more often and be at greater risk of impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance: factors associated with diabetes [8].

Aim for 20 minutes

Understandably, you may not always be able to prolong your eating time and luxuriate over every lunch; but using 20 minutes as your benchmark is a good place to start. Many of the studies reporting a beneficial effect found that slower eaters took between 20-30 minutes to eat their meals, while fast eaters usually finished after around 5 minutes. If you sound like the latter and want to slow down your eating, here are three helpful tips:

  • take smaller bites
  • pause after each bite (try placing your cutlery back down after each mouthful)
  • chew for longer.

Adjusting this eating habit could be the first step you need towards reaching your weight loss goal! Our Lose Weight plan could also definitely help towards this goal!

Remember, no matter how hectic life gets, try and take the time to slow down…unless you are sprinting as part of a HIIT session, of course!

If you enjoyed this blog, please read my other posts:

A simple health test you should try today

HIIT-ing middle age

Green exercise:  The hidden powers of your local park

Running Economy

What is hypertrophy?

What's the difference between fast and slow twitch muscle fibers?

Using fat for fuel

Food Cravings

Your lunch break is not just for eating. Upgrade it to a runch!

Resistance Band Training

Get to know your heart

How Alcohol May Be Limiting Your Progress

Running and Genetics


Genetic Dominance of East African and Jamaican Runners

Sprint and Power Performance

The Nordic Diet



[1] Hurst, Y., & Fukuda, H. (2018). Effects of changes in eating speed on obesity in patients with diabetes: a secondary analysis of longitudinal health check-up data. BMJ Open, 8(1). Retrieved from

[2] Momose, Y., Une, H., Hayashi, M., Takeyama, N. and Aoyagi, K., 2010. Habit of eating quickly is independently related with overweight among Japanese rural residents aged 40-79 years. Journal of the Japanese Association of Rural Medicine (Japan).

[3] Klein, S., Allison, D., Heymsfield, S., Kelley, D., Leibel, R., Nonas, C., & Kahn, R. (2007). Waist circumference and cardiometabolic risk: a consensus statement from Shaping America’s Health: Association for Weight Management and Obesity Prevention. Obesity, 15(5), 1061–1067.

[4] Hou, X., Lu, J., Weng, J., Ji, L., Shan, Z., Liu, J., ... & Lin, L. (2013). Impact of waist circumference and body mass index on risk of cardiometabolic disorder and cardiovascular disease in Chinese adults: a national diabetes and metabolic disorders survey. PLoS one, 8(3), e57319.

[5] Kokkinos, A., le Roux, C.W., Alexiadou, K., Tentolouris, N., Vincent, R.P., Kyriaki, D., Perrea, D., Ghatei, M.A., Bloom, S.R. and Katsilambros, N., 2010. Eating slowly increases the postprandial response of the anorexigenic gut hormones, peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 95(1), pp.333-337.

[6] Shah, M., Copeland, J., Dart, L., Adams-Huet, B., James, A. and Rhea, D., 2014. Slower eating speed lowers energy intake in normal-weight but not overweight/obese subjects. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(3), pp.393-402.

[7] Andrade, A.M., Greene, G.W. and Melanson, K.J., 2008. Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 108(7), pp.1186-1191.

[8] Totsuka, K., Maeno, T., Saito, K., Kodama, S., Asumi, M., Yachi, Y., Hiranuma, Y., Shimano, H., Yamada, N., Ono, Y. and Naito, T., 2011. Self-reported fast eating is a potent predictor of development of impaired glucose tolerance in Japanese men and women: Tsukuba Medical Center Study. Diabetes research and clinical practice, 94(3), pp.e72-e74.

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