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Slow Down, You Eat Too Fast!

Posted Jul 28 2010 3:16pm

Do you ever feel like you resemble a hamster on a wheel – running and stressrunning and running, with no time off and no chance to catch your breath?  This is a common theme among many of my clients, and as a mom of two young children (one of whom is homeschooled this year) as well as a business owner, it is one I can certainly relate to.

We’ve all heard stress is unhealthy, and you may have even heard some experts say it’s the number one cause of disease, but did you know that stress, rushing through meals and multi-tasking while eating also contributes to weight gain, poor digestion and cravings?

(And sadly, more and more kids are experiencing the repercussions of our speedy, stressed-out lives and “fast” food eating).

Although the diet industry doesn’t tell you this (you can’t package “relaxation” in a pretty box and sell it!), the fact remains: it’s not just about the calories you put IN your body or burn off while exercising:  it’s also about how efficiently your body burns the calories it takes in; how your digestion handles the food it’s being fed; and how your mind experiences the taste, satisfaction and pleasure of its meal.

When you eat while paying bills (stressful!), eat while rushing to a meeting (stressful!), eat off your kids plates (not paying attention), eat when you’re simultaneously criticizing yourself for eating or hating your body for looking the way it does (stressful), or eat in a semi- (or fully) unconscious state (not paying attention), you sabotage your efforts at reaching your natural weight without struggle.

Our bodies digest and burn calories in a relaxed state, not a stressed-out one; our minds notice and take in what we’re doing when we’re present and focused (not multi-tasking). If we are in a state of stress, our body thinks it has to “conserve” energy (to deal with the stressful situation) and responds by storing fat and holding on to extra weight.  (This is a very smart response! Back in the days when we really did have to fight for our survival, all of our energy had to go to save our lives, not digesting lunch! Unfortunately, our body doesn’t distinguish between fighting tigers and being late for a meeting).

Additionally, if our minds don’t register that we’ve eaten, if we haven’t experienced pleasure from our meal, we will be “hungry” (i.e. “want food” or experience cravings) shortly after.  As one of my favorite teachers in the field of nutrition and the psychology of eating, Marc David, said, “We don’t have a willpower problem – we have an awareness problem.”

Free VideoYour Assignment (if you dare!):  For your next meal, I invite you to put your food on a plate (no, not your kid’s plate), sit down, and notice. Notice the sights, the smells, your body, your hunger. Take a breath, a nice deep breath, and then another one. (If you’re not relaxed, you can fool your body into thinking it is with a few deep breaths!). Now one more.  As you’re eating your meal, notice it. Chew it. Savor it.  Keep breathing, and allow your body to enjoy the attention. Allow your body to tell you when it’s had enough, and honor its messages. (Do this regularly, and the word “diet” won’t even be in your vocabulary!)

How simply we might be able to transform our relationship to food, our children’s relationship to food, and perhaps the health of the planet if we slooooooowed down; if we enjoyed and savored the food on our plate; if we realized, once and for all, that our bodies are quite miraculous, and chose to treat them as such rather than run them ragged and feed them without the attention and love they deserve.

Want to use this article in your next newsletter or on your website?  You have my permission as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Karen Schachter is a psychology of eating expert who is commited to helping women and girls develop positive relationships to food and their bodies.  Ready to feel inspired and nourished?  Get your FREE tips now at

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