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Can Dining More Slowly Help You Slim Down Faster?

Everything today is rush, rush, rush. Believe me, I’m as guilty as the next guy. With a bustling career, a wife who works full-time outside the home and four children, I need to whisk my kids off to school, answer my emails STAT, jump into my packed work day, and somehow squeeze in time for my meals.

But speed may be the opposite of what you need when it comes to eating and losing weight. Some new research has found that slowing down the rate at which you eat may actually help you get into those skinny jeans more quickly.

Slow Down, Get Slim

In one study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers asked over 1,500 middle-aged women to rank their eating speed based on one of five categories—very slow, slow, medium, relatively fast or very fast.

What they found was fascinating. For each jump in eating speed—from very slow to slow, or from medium to relatively fast, for example—body weight significantly increased. For example, a 5’4” woman weighing 165 pounds who ate “very fast” was likely to be almost 20 pounds heavier than her counterpart who ate “very slowly.”1

And this isn’t the first study finding that eating quickly can make you fat. In another study, this one of 37,000 middle-aged men published in the Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that men who ate the fastest were the heaviest2. And in an eight-year study published in Appetite, researchers looked at 529 men and found that the fastest eaters were not only heavier, but also gained more weight over time3.

How faster makes you fatter

Once our meal is in motion, we don’t usually stop until we’re satisfied. But many of us don’t feel satisfied until we push back from the table too full to even want another bite. And that can be a problem, since getting to “full” can add up to a whole lot of calories.

So how do we get to “satisfied” without stuffing ourselves silly? Research shows that eating slowly changes the production of key gut hormones that help give your brain the signal it’s satiated, like ghrelin, a hormone produced in the stomach, and peptide tyrosine tyrosine (PYY), a hormone produced in the pancreas.

If you eat too fast, your brain doesn’t get the memo that it’s gotten enough, so it keeps on telling you to pack in the calories. By the time the signal reaches the brain, it’s too late. You’ve already eaten that second helping of pasta, the rest of your son’s chocolate shake and a few extra bites of… oh, who are we kidding, the entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s.

Shift your eating into slow gear

You can put the brakes on your bites, which will help keep your weight down. Here are a few of my suggestions:

  • Take a pause. Inhale deeply, sip some water and put down your fork between each bite.
  • Be social. Dine with a friend, making sure your mouth is completely empty every time you talk, which will stretch out your mealtime and give your brain time to catch up to your belly. Not to mention being simple good manners!
  • Savor your snack. Pay close attention to the taste, texture and smell of every morsel you put in your mouth. Not only will that help slow you down, you’ll also enjoy your food that much more.
  • Exercise your other side. Put your fork in your non-dominant hand. You’ll slow yourself down and work the other side of your brain. Or try eating with chopsticks.
  • Enjoy an appetizer. Before you dive into your main course, eat a salad or broth-based soup to give your stomach a head start.
  • Choose high-fiber foods like apples, pears, carrots and broccoli that take more time to chew.

So, what do you think of these studies? Is it worth slowing down your dinner to see if you can turbocharge your weight loss? If you have any additional tips to slow down your meals, I’d love to hear them.

Steven Sisskind, M.D.

1. Leong SL, Madden C, Gray A, Waters D, Horwath C. 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):1192-1197.

2. Otsuka R, Tamakoshi K, Yatsuya H, 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):117-124.

3. Tanihara S, Imatoh T, Miyazaki M, et al. Retrospective longitudinal study on the relationship between 8-year weight change and current eating speed. Appetite. 2011;57(1):179-183.

4. Galhardo J, Hunt LP, Lightman SL, et al. Normalizing eating behavior reduces body weight and improves gastrointestinal hormonal secretion in obese adolescents.

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  1. Avenel Grace says:

    Dear Steve,
    I am sure you are right on the ball on this one.
    I was always a fast eater, mainly because I was always in a hurry, and stopping to eat was a nusiance or an unwanted necessity.
    I used to go without, until my stomach was almost falling out, and then gulp down enough to keep it quiet for a bit longer.
    I am sure, along with eating slower, eating small amounts and at much closer intervals is the secret, as long as the food is not junk food.
    Thanks for all your interesting tips and your work on the “fatties of this world.
    Kind Regards,
    Avenel Grace.
    Adelaide South Australia.

    • sandy says:

      Hi Avenel & Steve.

      Eating high quality real food ( organic and in season- meats, vegetables and fruits) slowly is the key.

      Planning these quality meals is not that hard when only 2 or 3 meals a day, as opposed to 5 or 6 meals a day
      is the plan. Frequent smaller meals usually leads to overeating of calories per day and becomes a challenge to
      plan for also. We all realise now CICO ( calories in,calories out) and energy expenditure is only a part of the picture.
      Hormones should also be factored in and used to our fatloss advantage. The human body is complex and has been compromised by modern living.

  2. Betty says:

    This is great advice! I have heard this before but did not know there was research to support it. I tried the fork trick after reading your article and it worked. I only ate half of my breakfast too because I was so slow with my left hand. I also want to thank you for your wonderful product. It has only been about 6 weeks, but I am already down a dress size and i just feel a whole lot better in general. And at 54 years old, I need all the energy I can get.

  3. Helen says:

    I try all sort of way to lose my weight loss. I can’t I been trying taking ZUMBA, cycling, walking still not reduced at all. Very frustrated. I have many ways during my childhood until now no results. Try to eat healthy food , weight loss tablets, not doing anything. Eat heaps of vegetables, fruits, raw nuts nothing happened. Drink alot of water too cut down sugar, soft drinks, fry foods and junks. Nothing happened. As I had been working in weet-bix company makes me it healthier and turned to vegan person but it does works for me atll. I would liked to order FORMULA 1 bit I do not how to order, please please tell me how. THANK YOU.

  4. pam hale says:

    could you send me some meal suggestions?

  5. Bill Henderson says:

    Hello Steve from Brisbane, Australia
    I have to tell you that I’m delighted to see a top diet guru asking for further suggestions to improve one of his articles.
    When I taught management subjects in the 1970s I coined a slogan “A goood idea doesn’t care who has it, but it loves everyone who promotes it.” So it certainly loves you.
    I have some more suggestions as well as yours above:
    1) Don’t graze in the kitchen. Plate up a portion-controlled main course and sit down somewhere nice to eat it slowly. If you’re then still hungry, stall eating any more for 15 minutes by the clock, to let the grehlin kick in. It will.
    2) Eating slowly to lose weight is important enough to invest a bit of time on, no matter how busy you are.
    Better to lose time from work because you’re eating slowly than because you’ve died younger than you needed to.
    3) The more you actively enjoy your food, the less you eat. Focusing on what you’re eating and enjoying every mouthful is especially helpful if you tend to eat for emotional comfort.
    4) So don’t distract yourself from focussing on enjoying your food by watching TV or reading a book or a computer screen while you have food in your mouth. And don’t eat while you’re driving. Eat it all slowly and peacefully outside the drive-through and then rush off.
    4) Chew each mouthful a lot longer than you’re used to, especially starchy foods, which will turn to fat if not mashed into tiny pieces, and each piece coated with the starch-digestion enzymes in saliva. So take the time to chew each mouthful till it feels thoroughly mashed, and has lost all of its flavour. Just be patient.
    5) Don’t guess. Find out precisely how fast you actually eat. Write down the time you sat down to eat and the time you stood up from eating. Can you take longer on that meal tomorrow? And longer still, the day after that?
    6) Do not eat up the leftovers, yours or anyone else’s. Rescue them for another meal or a pet, or bin them.
    I believe that eating a lot slower is the best way to save money today, have better health tomorrow and live a longer, happier life. Best wishes to you all.

    • Thank you, Bill, for your kind words of positive feedback. I appreciate it! Thank you, also, for your 6 additional suggestions for making food consumption a more mindful and peaceful process. Make it a healthy day!

  6. Maggie says:

    Dr. Sisskind,
    Thanks so much for all the info you give and I agree about eating more slowly, I have always eaten faster then I should because I absolutely detest cold food. If you take too long to eat it is cold and unappetizing.
    Thanks again for sharing all your knowledge and research.

  7. Rhonda says:

    My daughter has always had a problem of over eating, she over ate a baby and was so full she’d threw up. I always believed there was something missing, she never felt full At first I cut back on her carbohydrates, still nothing. I believe that her brain didn’t get the signal from her belly that she was full so I looked into the peptide tyrosine tyrosine hormone I often thought it was the in the endocrine system to this day she still has a weight issue, what can I do to help her? She tries to not eat than gorges herself

    • Hi Rhonda,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! In as much as I would like to help I cannot recommend RealDose Weight Loss formula No.1 for you daughter. This is because the product was formulated for adults. That said, I do encourage you to speak with her personal doctor before embarking on a weight loss regimen. Your daughter’s health is of the utmost importance and seeking the opinion of a professional will not only lead you closer to determining the exact cause of her propensity to over eat but also ensure her safety as she finds the appropriate diet program for her.

      I do wish you and your daughter success on your journey to better health, Rhonda! Have a healthy day!

    • Hello Rhonda,

      As parents, we want the best for our children and suffer when they are having difficulties. I understand your desire to help your daughter. While there are commonalities between adults and children with weight issues, we are equipped to help with adults, primarily. I apologize about that. Have you discussed your daughter’s eating patterns with her primary physician or with a dietician who specializes in children and adolescents? You may be best served by getting one-on-one advice on from someone whose specialty is the eating patterns of growing children.

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Rhonda,

      You haven’t mentioned your daughter’s age, but I have a suggestion and Dr. Sisskind, see if you agree….
      When you speak of your daughter over-eating, what exactly is she consuming. My grandsons eat alot, but their mom makes sure they eat healthy. They don’t drink whole milk, but drink almond and coconut milk. They snack on apples, grapes and bananas and she uses whole grain bread for their sandwiches (Ezekiel bread is great and has no flour). Their waffles are whole grain too and she serves them with bananas or berries. For breakfast they have steel-cut oats and let me tell you, that sticks to your ribs. If she gives them fruit juice, she waters it down…1/2 juice and 1/2 water. Just think of the sugar calories you avoid that way! Rhonda, these are only a few things you can do for her. Hope it works for you guys and of course….don’t forget to exercise! Make it fun!!!!

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