Eating Slowly Is Helping Former ‘Nervous Eater’

By November 9, 2012

 I have been bolting my food down for years and would suffer nervousness as a result. I didn’t realize what was causing me to be so nervous. I noticed that I always felt nervous after eating. My job was the original cause of my rapid eating. I didn’t have much time for lunch and would gulp down everything just to beat the clock. It even effected my sleep patterns and my energy levels. I was stressed out all the time. Recently, I slowed way down in my eating process. I really take my time with meals and it has been a miracle. I suffer none of the symptoms that I had previously and I sleep like a baby at night now. What a difference that eating slowly at meals makes in the way you feel, concentrate, sleep, and energy level. It has improved my entire life! I don’t know if research exists, but could bolting down food put your body into some type of shock? That is the way I have felt all those years… This could be something really big to research since everyone is in such a rush these days. I’m a changed man as a result…. Have a great day and chew your food. – Jim

Dear Jim,

Acute stress is not the state one wants to be in when they are consuming food. This is often referred to as “fight or flight” response and it is what the body reverts to during times of life threatening events. The appetite should be decreased during such times because no one thinks of eating when they are running from a Grizzly bear. In such stressful events, blood flow is rerouted such that there is a four-fold decrease in the blood flow to the digestive tract. The autonomic nervous system suppresses digestion so food is not assimilated and it just sits there.

If you participate in mindless rapid fire eating your body locks into this acute stress response and your thermic efficiency decreases dramatically. Your body also goes into a sort of digestive shutdown whereby you do not digest or absorb at peak efficiency. Part of the trigger is the short and shallow breathing producing both an oxygen reduction (so you cannot burn fat) as well as the reduction in blood flow to the digestive organs (which causes you to inefficiently digest and assimilate food).

It might interest you to know that in comparison to Americans, the French have a higher incidence of tobacco use (21% females & 33% of men smoke vs. 20% & 25% in the U. S.), generally espouse exercise (steer clear of the gym but walk a lot), and consume a high intake of fat and cholesterol (cheese, eggs, and sauces). Yet in spite of their poor health practices they have a very low incidence of cardiovascular disease and are generally thin (only 11% obese vs. 30% of Americans). This is considered to be a paradox.

The reasoning? Aside from their consumption of anti-oxidant and phytonutrient rich red wine, the French also eat smaller portions (Americans eat 10 – 30% more), eat slowly, savor their food, make the midday meal their largest, and consume fresh and high quality fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins. Cooking is considered to be a sensual act; it is part of the pleasure and love of foods. In fact, it may be the very act of celebrating the meal and mindful eating that protect the French from the struggles with eating and weight we see in the US.

“Mindful eating” is what is required to slow down the eating process. By introducing awareness into the eating process, you enhance your body’s thermogenic efficiency and stimulate weight loss. Failure to relax and slow down the eating process keeps one unsatisfied, hungry and triggers weight gain. Efforts to maximize circulation and oxygen uptake while keeping insulin and cortisol to a minimum will further assure that one can escape the inevitable creeping obesity. A circadian routine of meal planning insures that you are working in tune with the body’s proper rhythm for maximizing metabolism.


Ralph Carson, PhD, RD, LD