Being Still - Eating

There has become a propensity to eat on the go or to gobble down our food as quickly as possible.

Herein lies the danger in that, apart from special occasions when we might take time to savour the good, our fast intake will have detrimental effects in that we develop unhealthy hearts and wider waistlines.

It has been ascertained that people who eat slower and more mindfully are less likely to add weight or develop metabolic syndrome. Research has shown that 2.3 per cent of slow eaters will develop metabolic syndrome, in comparison to 6.5 per cent of medium speed eaters and 11.6 per cent of the fast eaters.[1] The conclusion is that the fast eaters were more at risk of developing the circumstances that would lead to heart attacks, diabetes and stroke.

The further bad news is that eating too speedily prevents the brain from noticing when the body has taken in too many calories. When too many calories are ingested, the body stores them as fat, which places additional pressure on the heart and other vital organs. This speed of eating will also produce spikes of blood sugar, which prevents insulin from working effectively and can lead to diabetes.

In response to the study, Professor Jeremy Pearson, the associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, commented: ‘If anything, it’s a reminder that many of us have hectic lifestyles which may include eating quickly at the desk over lunchtime, or in a rush commuting home.’

Research in the BMJ Open indicated that eating slowly, not having after-dinner snacks and not eating within two hours of bedtime helped with lowering overweight and obesity, together with smaller waistlines.

In particular, the participants in the study who ate at the normal rate were 29 per cent less likely to be obese than those who ate quickly. For those who ate slowly, the comparison was greater as they were 42 per cent less likely to be obese than the quick eaters. The waist size was noticeably smaller amongst those who ate at normal and slow speed.

The scoffing down of food has been associated with impaired glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, which may lead to diabetes. It could have the effect of preventing weight loss as the message is not getting to the brain from the stomach that it is full. For slower eaters, the message between the two organs occurs at a faster rate so less calories are consumed.[2]

In addition to consuming less calories, more mindful eating will result in feeing fuller for longer and less likely to succumb to unhealthy cravings.[3]

In addition, Eamee Russell, the Head of Prevention and Campaigns at the Stroke Association, stated: ‘Obesity is a huge health challenge, and it can be the reason behind the devastating stroke. Being overweight increases your risk of ischaemic stroke by 22 per cent, and if you are obese, the risk increases by 64 per cent, so tackling obesity is crucial.’

There is a Swedish word fika, which means to take a break with coffee and a pastry, in order to spend time with family, work colleagues or friends.

In her book The Family Dinner, writer Laura David made it a ‘project’ for the family to sit down together so (in her words) ‘everyone stop what he or she was doing at around the same time every night and sit together for satisfying amount of time to eat, talk, and connect as a family.’

The first action was to turn Tuesdays into taco night where she and her children would invite guests, prepare tacos and prepare conversation starters to discuss over the meal. It became a tradition very quickly and the family turned other meals into special occasions as well.[4]

When we take time out whilst eating, we are looking after our waistlines and our relationships.

[1]Cited in Sarah Knapton, ‘Gobbling down food increases risk of obesity, heart attack and stroke, study suggests,’ Daily Telegraph, 13 November 2017,
[2]Emma Gray, ‘Slow eating speed may be linked to weight loss,’ BMJ Open, 12 February 2018,
[3]‘Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat,’ Diabetes Spectrum 30 (3), August 2017: 171 – 174,
[4]Laura David, The Family Dinner (Grand Central Life & Style, New York, 2015)