Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Do you eat too fast?

I'm guilty of a lot of things at the dinner table. One too many servings. An extra glass of wine. Talking when I should be concentrating on the food in front of me.

But my biggest mealtime sin is simply eating too fast.

I'm always the first one to finish. I think it drives certain members of my family crazy. Like I'm competing in the Grand Prix of eating. But I don't see mealtime as a race, honest! I wish I could slow down. In fact, I feel kind of left out when my plate is empty while everyone else is only halfway through their meal, savoring each bite and enjoying conversation along the way.

Did you know most Americans eat too fast?

Unfortunately this can lead to a slew of health problems, including indigestion and obesity (not to mention you could choke). Scientists say it takes approximately 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to send out signals of fullness. So if you eat too fast chances are you're also consuming more calories than you need. You're also probably swallowing a lot of air and may end up with gas and heartburn (sounds fun).

For me, it all started during childhood.

We shared a lot of wonderful meals growing up. My particular favorite was Sunday night steak and potatoes. My dad cooked those steaks just perfect. And his baked potatoes! He would lovingly wrap each Russet potato in foil, throw them in the oven and 40 minutes later -- fluffy, starchy glory.

I loved watching dad eat his culinary creation. The way he methodically carved his steak into thick chunks. How he measured out two pats of butter and dropped them into the mouth of his steaming potato. But dad also ate really fast. When we would ask him why, he would always reply nonchalantly, "I had to eat fast in the military. Everyone had to."

So we followed suit. Not because he told us to. I think my brother and I just wanted to be like him. Our steak-and-potato eating hero.

But as a grown-up with two little kids watching me at the dinner table, I realize I need to stop chomping so fast and instead practice mindful eating. I want to connect more deeply with the experience of eating. I'd like to chew every morsel of food and pay attention to its taste, texture and smell. I would like to teach my children to do the same.

Because what we eat is just as important as how we eat it.

Photo via Getty Images.