Eating More Slowly Can Help Weight Loss

Nicky Broyd

February 14, 2018

Eating more slowly, along with not eating within 2 hours of going to sleep, and cutting out after dinner snacks, could help with weight loss, researchers say.

The findings are from a 5 year study of people in Japan with type 2 diabetes, and have been published in the journal BMJ Open.

Sophie Roberts, registered dietitian, and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association (BDA), tells us by email: "We have known for some time that eating more slowly can help us to eat less at an individual meal. Slowing down our eating can help us to lose weight provided that it is used alongside other strategies that mean we eat less overall, such as serving smaller portions and making healthier choices."


For this latest study, data from nearly 60,000 people was analysed. They had regular health check-ups between 2008 and 2013 during which they were asked about their lifestyle, and specifically about the speed they ate at, whether it was fast, normal, or slow.

At the start of the study, most people, 33,455, ate at a normal speed, 22,070 rushed their food, and 4,192 were slow eaters.

As well as eating speed, participants were also asked if on 3 or more occasions a week they ate dinner within 2 hours of going to sleep, snacked after dinner, or skipped breakfast.


The researchers found slow eaters tended to be healthier and have a healthier lifestyle than either the fast or normal speed eaters.

Compared to those who bolted their food, those who ate at a normal speed were 29% less likely to be obese, rising to 42% for those who ate slowly. Obesity within the Japanese population is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more, in the UK it's a BMI of 30 or more.

Changing eating speed, cutting out after dinner snacks, and not eating within 2 hours of bedtime were all strongly associated with lower obesity and weight (BMI), and smaller waist circumference.

Eating Speed

The researchers believe eating slowly may help with weight loss because it takes longer for fast eaters to feel full, whereas this might happen more quickly for slow eaters.

Sophie Roberts says: "When people eat more slowly they take in less calories at that meal. We spend more time enjoying each mouthful and so are satisfied with less and are better able to judge when we have had enough to eat. Conversely, when we eat quickly it is easy to rush past the point of ''enough' food to feeling uncomfortably full before we have even noticed what has happened."


The researchers conclude that reducing eating speed may be effective in preventing obesity and lowering the associated health risks.

Sophie Roberts says: "This study design simply observed what happened to people's weight and habits over time and was not designed to test slower eating as a weight loss method. The authors have suggested that interventions targeting eating speed may be effective in preventing obesity, and in fact this is a question that research is yet to answer."

She says: "There is surprisingly little research looking at whether eating slowly works as a standalone weight loss strategy, and we don't yet know the best way to eat slowly."

Mindful Eating

Sophie Roberts says: "If you want to try reducing how quickly you eat as part of your weight loss efforts try experimenting with different ways of eating slowly to see what works for you, for example chewing your food for longer, removing distractions at mealtimes, or using a mindful eating approach.

"This study looked at the speed people eat by asking them to rate their eating speed as fast, normal or slow. This is subtly different from mindful eating, which also involves slowing down when we eat, but in a specific way where our attention is focused on the tastes, sounds, smells and textures of our


" Mindful eating also usually includes other strategies such as becoming more aware of the emotions that drive us to eat, and paying more attention to how full we are before, after and during a meal. It's definitely possible to eat slowly but mindlessly - most of have at some point let our lunch get cold because we have been distracted by our mobile phone or an interesting conversation."


BMJ Open: Effects of changes in eating speed on obesity in patients with diabetes: a secondary analysis of longitudinal health check-up data

Sophie Roberts, Registered Dietitian, and BDA spokesperson

NHS Choices - Obesity