2011 Challenge: slow down

Everywhere we look things are telling us to move faster, do more, be more and cram everything in that we can.

It’s exhausting.

One of my 2011 Challenges is to slow down. The area I want to hone in on might surprise you: eating.

I want to eat slowly. I want to savor my food instead of rushing through dinner. I want to to take enough time that I never get that overly full uncomfortable feeling after a meal. I want to enjoy the conversation at the table instead of mentally rehearsing the post-meal clean-up, bathe son, bedtime routine scenario.

If it took me 40 minutes to prepare dinner shouldn’t it take more than 12 minutes for it to be eaten?

I’ve always been a quick eater. It’s a much needed skill when you grow up in a family of seven people. My eating patterns and speed were often motivated by supply issues: you better eat two grilled cheese sandwiches and quick because that block of cheese ain’t gonna be here tomorrow. If there was a treat in our pantry it wasn’t likely to last 24 hours. The mantra was consume as much as you could because tomorrow those chips would be a memory.

The eating pace bunny in our home was my older brother. He could polish off vast quanities of food in rapid fire. Obviously, my ten year old self could not keep up with a sixteen year old boy’s eating capactiy. But I tried. I won’t bore you with chubby youth stories but know that my speed eating was ingrained at a young age.

Adulthood and the removal of competition for food has helped me slow down some. But I still find myself racing through a meal, thinking about what’s next on the agenda and can I fit a load of cloth diaper laundry in before bed time.

It’s time to linger over a meal. It’s time to, gasp, not finish everything on my plate.

I’m looking forward to better digestion, possibly losing a few pounds and engaged meal time conversation. Even if the dinner table conversation revolves around my son’s antics with his sweet potato.

If you need some resolve to slow down in every day life check out this post on The Happiest Mom about I’m-so-busy-itis. I completely agree that it is boring to hear people talk about how over-run their schedules are and how long their to do lists have grown. I say this and have been guilty of I’m-so-busy-itis before. Slowing down and going minimalist have helped me in this area. When catching up with friends I can now talk about a book I read or activity Henry and I did together or that I finally conquered the big box jump at Crossfit. Those are better conversation starters than I’m so busy I barely have time to pee.

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  • Great challenge! I’ve been paying attention to the speed of my eating lately too. Often times I scarf it down so fast that I don’t get to savor the flavor and enjoy the process of eating. I haven’t really made it a focus, it’s mostly something I just notice every once in a while. When I do notice it I force myself to slow down. A side benefit when I do slow down is that I don’t usually go back for seconds, which is good for my waistline. :)

    • Hi Freedom! Hope you and family are well and progressing closer to your move. Excited to pop over to your blog and see where you are at now.
      Maybe I need a timer on the table. Or to practice the pause between bites rule.

  • This is so funny–I actually was thinking about this last night! I’ll spend an hour making dinner and then nobody wants to sit around the table for more than ten minutes. They’re all wolfing it down as fast as they can so they can get back to whatever they were doing before.

    I’m thinking about establishing a family dinner time–maybe a full half-hour where nobody is allowed to get up from the table, nobody can answer the phone or the door, and no matter how quickly you eat you have to sit and wait until everyone else is done.

    I think it’ll give us more time to really connect and talk to each other and it’ll be good for teaching the kids patience.

    Thanks for the inspiration! I’m going to write about this today.

  • After being chided by my wife about eating speed for a long time I actually consciously ate and savoured my dinner this evening. It was nice. And for a meal where I usually over eat (chili) I think I did fairly well. And I was a growing boy (wink wink) don’t hold it against me. 😉

  • I think this is a great idea. My husband works nights. About a year ago he started coming home for his dinner hour. We’ve developed a habit of sitting at the table together for about 45 minutes of it then cleaning up together before he heads back to work. We enjoy our meals so much now and have both lost weight! We value this time so much I hope we’ll continue even if he ever returns to a “normal” work day.

  • I laughed out loud remembering the racing-to-get-your-share-eaten of our youth.
    I just wolfed down my breakfast but will try and slow down at lunch.
    Loved this post!

  • Rachel, that’s too funny about your brother setting the consumption pace in your house!

    I learned to eat fast and furious when I was working. I ate my breakfast in one bite to get out the door and plowed through lunch so I wouldn’t be late back from break. Unfortunately, even when I went home I still ate fast as if it was a race against the clock, not a meal.

    When we downshifted our lives our meals were one of the first things to improve. I love food and savoring it is my favorite past time. On weekends I make a big deal out the meal, and always serve bread and olive oil at least an hour ahead so we can all enjoy the flavors without feeling full too quickly. Bon Appetit!

    • Just had a nice breakfast with my husband. Not a leisurely one, as he had to get to his desk, but it was nice to connect over a meal.
      I like the sound of your weekend meals!

  • I’m pretty much the slowest eater ever so am just here to say yeah, it’s great and good luck with the challenge. I haven’t had heartburn or constipation once so far and I’m almost 8 months pregnant. (But maybe this is due to a vegan diet or genetics, who knows!)

    I don’t understand the “i’m so busy” people either, but then again I don’t have kids yet. What are people so busy doing? I’m pretty social and go out a lot, but if I’m tired, I just stay home. I tend to have more of a problem fighting boredom than being too busy!

    • I’m reminded of that saying, it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it’s full. All the slow eaters I know are trim folk that don’t struggle with weight. Coincidence? I think not.

      I understand the “i’m so busy” from some people. A few of my mom friends work long hours and the shuttling themselves and their kids to daycare/work sounds exhausting. I understand it but I’m pretty turned off by it and hate hearing myself utter anything in that realm. Most of us have choices with how we want to spend our time – if it’s working a lot because we want to have more stuff or a bigger house, then recognize that.

      Hope you are doing well in the home stretch =)

  • I am having precisely the opposite battle right now. We have always been good about sitting down to meals together – not perfect because between evening classes and work I have regularly been out of the house 2 evenings/week for nearly their entire lives. However, since my oldest started school, it is not unusual for dinner to take 1+hr. I understand the kids are probably doing this somewhat defensively – it has been a busy several months – and they get mom & dad time. However, my husband and I (me especially!) get antsy and tired of reminding them to take a bite every few minutes. No one is savoring the meal that got cold while they dwaddled. Plus, it eats into time for other things — like reading a bedtime story, bathing, and clean-up.

    I have instituted the timer in reverse, I sit for 45 min and then I get up and go about the rest of my evening. As much as I am value bread breaking time, I finding I have to limit it to a reasonable amount.

    • Love hearing the other side of this problem. I do wonder if things will change as my son gets older. He is a very slow eater. I usually get him started before we sit down and then let him continue as I tidy up.

  • I am going to disagree with you. I too was the product of a large family on a tight budget so I know the position from which you speak. However, I disagree with your reasoning. I think that making food a social event can be disastrous. I believe that some of the old rules based on sound reasoning still hold true. Never talk with food in your mouth, eat what you take, and clean your plate. Good manners never go out of style and if you don’t know if you’ll like something, just take a little and try it. Leaving food for the trash is simply wasteful and our budget can’t sustain that kind of abuse. Besides, I like hot food to be hot. I hate food that is supposed to be hot that is cold, except pizza, which is good anytime. I believe that when we make food and dining a social event we create a monster that eats our time while confusing the real reason for eating.

    I like to slow down in almost any other area of my life and be very quiet in my walks, careful in my talks, and comfortable in my leisure. I just have real trouble lingering at the dinner table unless we’re playing Monopoly or Rummikub. I like your idea of slowing down, just not at the dinner table.

    • Interesting. Reminds me of that study out a while back, people eat more in social situations than they do on their own. We’re on different pages on this one but I like your take on dining. Efficient supper time = time for a game of Scrabble?

      As for the leaving a bit on the plate – I save it! I’m all about leftovers and reducing food waste.

      • Rachel:
        I love reading your blog and the information that you present is refreshing and relevant to my life and my lifestyle choices. I am exceptionally pleased that we can disagree on this point without rancor.

        However, you have made me think about my priorities and my own blog. I wonder if I should abandon it as a frivolous waste of time since I only see a few readers anyway. Just thinking out loud and listening to my inner voice.

        I really enjoy exchanging ideas and intelligent conversation, even if it’s electronically.


        • I think we’re all writers at heart and getting our thoughts and ideas down somewhere brings clarity. My siblings and I all have blogs that we use to connect and update each other on what’s happening in our lives. We’ve created a nice history and conversation about so many things that have happened over the years. The blog spurs conversation offline and vice versa.
          I say keep the blog.
          And I too enjoy the exchanging of ideas and conversation here. I like having people around me – even electronically – that are going to disagree with me. Makes my brain work a bit harder =)

  • I am a slow eater – always last to finish. My older son is the same way (must be genetics). When I pick him up from pre-school, he’s never ready because he’s still finishing his snack. But I can really relate to not enjoying the moment because you’re thinking of everything you have to do AFTER the meal. Our baby is a very messy eater – the worst. My first inclination was always to clean him up as he was eating in order to avoid a bigger mess later on. But then my husband and I were not enjoying OUR meal! So my friend suggested that I just let him have at the food and only worry about cleaning him up once. This required some mental discipline. But it has improved our mealtimes significantly! So maybe you could block out 30-40 minutes for dinner and conversation, which does not include clean-up time?

    • Ha! Henry is a messy eater too. I do the same as you and let him spray food everywhere and clean up later.
      Chris has recently changed his work schedule so he finishes by dinner time. He used to be heading back into the office for a few hours post-meal. I think this also sped things up. I’m noticing we are taking a bit more time with the meal now.

  • Hi, I’ve been really enjoying your blog and learning to slow down my eating has become very important to me as I have needed to lose huge amounts of weight. I have just started writing about it on a blog called Mind Your Weightloss at http://www.weightmindfulness.wordpress.com In the past year I have lost 4 stones -56lbs – by changing my diet and a major part of the change has been slowing down the rate at which I eat. I blame my fast eating speed on my childhood too and having to rush meals at work compounded the problem. Hope you enjoy your family meal times and I look forward to your future posts

  • Yep I’m sick of people asking me how I am or what I’ve been up to, and all I can say is “busy as usual”. I don’t want to be busy all the time- I want to have some time to spend enjoying the moment. I want to have some funny stories to tell- not just “I’ve been flat out working”. I want to smile and laugh and learn and listen and play. I don’t want people to say “What’s wrong Dave? you don’t look happy anymore”

    As Thich Nhat Hanh said : “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” I think that sounds like a good motto

  • Gosh I so hear you on this one…truly…people are actually always telling me to slow down when I eat.

    As a mom we are so used to hurrying when we eat. I am convinced it was from the days when they were babies and I had to eat before they started crying. Now I am just habitually eating my food faster than everyone else at the table so that I can move on to the next task of the day!

    Great idea…and I think that I too am going to slow down on my next meal! :)

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