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Why eating slowly may help you feel full faster

October 19, 2010
  • By Ann MacDonald, Contributor

About the Author

photo of Ann MacDonald

Ann MacDonald, Contributor

Ann MacDonald was the editor of the Harvard Mental Health Letter from October 2007 to January 2012. She has also written several editions of the Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Disease. Before working at … See Full Bio
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January 31, 2012

Some Chinese hosts won’t take “I’m full now” for an answer and expect you to eat.

January 31, 2012

It’s a culture thing. Some Chinese Moms think you don’t like the food if you chew too slow. They think it’s rude to eat slow. You have to rub your stomach, and slurp and say “mmmm” and burp (sometiems) to show you are satisfied.

January 31, 2012

I was looking for articles on losing weight before getting to this article. So far, what I found interesting is that your muscles might weigh more while you lose fat, so that might be the reason of not losing weight. So now I’m resolved to exercise at the school exercising room at least three times a week. I think I’ll exercise tonight after school work and wake up at 6 in the morning to come and exercise. I also get that we need to make our digestive tract absorb better. I’ve been eating only dinners at 10:30 P.M. after school in order to lose weight, and I don’t think that’s unhealthy at all. I also thought you have to not look at thd food in order to not eat it, but I guess you could take one more look in order to disapprove of it. It’s not a look of longing. I think I’ll eat less solids and more liquids from now on to help my digestion. I think our attitudes and moods affect how we chew greatly. Calmer people and those who love life more and get more wondrous of life might eat slower.

January 23, 2012

Eating slowly not only helps our digestive system to digest the food properly. We have to swallow food after chewing it properly, so that it gets digested properly.
you can visit my website:

January 17, 2012

Eating slow is nearly impossible for me

Consciously Culinary
January 20, 2012

•It turns out that we often let the plate-size and not our appetite determine how much we eat (see Brian Wansink’s 2007 Ig Nobel prize for “the bottomless soup bowl”)
•Food needs to dissolve in our stomach acids in order for the nutrients to be absorbed by the body. We don’t have teeth in our stomach. The size the food morsels are when they get swallowed is the size they are when they need to dissolve. Fine powder dissolves faster than a clump ! ChewChewChew
•Eating with chopsticks are a great way to eat less food per bite.
Good Luck !
BeWell, EatWell, LiveWell
Caspar Poyck C.Ht.

Thelma Gollier
January 13, 2012

I actually wanted to compose a small note to thank you for some of the pleasant secrets you are showing on this website.

Vitamin B6
December 28, 2011

It’s important to eat slowly as well as eating healthy quality food. The key is to provide your body the body with the proteins and nutrients it needs.

Marc Azada
October 28, 2011

Good point! I think the most effective way to loose weight is to eat 6 small meals a day. I’ve tried it and it worked!

Julie C.
October 26, 2011

I will try to eat slowly and report back here in a while

October 25, 2011

It all comes down to eating healthy & exercise. Don’t put in more than you put out. Great post!!
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Santo Sheely
October 16, 2011

Thanks for the article. My partner and i have continually seen that a lot of people are desperate to lose weight when they wish to appear slim along with attractive. Having said that, they do not often realize that there are many benefits just for losing weight additionally. Doctors assert that obese people come across a variety of illnesses that can be instantly attributed to their excess weight. The good news is that people who are overweight plus suffering from different diseases are able to reduce the severity of their own illnesses by means of losing weight. You are able to see a continuous but marked improvement with health while even a minor amount of fat loss is attained.

October 11, 2011

I strongly agree that eating slowly is easier said than done. When I first started trying to lose weight, I had to really focus on my eating habits. I hate too quickly and too much. Once I got that under control, my weight came off fairly quickly. Great article!
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shed pounds
October 10, 2011

A healthy eating plan is a comprehensive program for improving your health by improving the quality of the foods you eat. Rather than focusing on the restriction or elimination of foods from your life, an eating program educates you about how foods impact your body so that you can make a learned choice when it comes to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. l
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amy nicola
October 9, 2011

I think what may help in addition to slowing down is that you can consume a bit of water prior to eating your meal and also consuming a bit of fibre with your meal. This should make you feel fuller and therefore make you eat a bit less. Just a thought.

October 6, 2011

This is a very interesting article. I remember reading an article a while back that linked chewing your food more slowly with better digestion. If I recall correctly the article recommended chewing for a least 30 seconds.
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October 3, 2011

3 golden rules to lose weight
1:keep the portions small
2:eat slow
3: and most important is exercise.
4:take a good diet (

September 19, 2011

yea,i have proved this when i was on a diet two years ago. but the matter is that the taste of the food change into something i don’t like. i don’t know how to describe the taste, but it should be the one i want to taste.
anyway, thanks for sharing this great article.

September 26, 2011

no, i haven’t seen that new commercial on TV. but i think you are right. i just can’t believe foods taste better when hot (as i can’t imagine how i should drink an ice cream when it is hot lol). perhaps that is the reason why i like to eat hot foods than the chill ones. thanks for the reply, anyway.

September 19, 2011

Thats really true eating food slowly feels full.I already eats slowly

September 17, 2011

good article i like this site

September 17, 2011

If you went by the standard priciple of chemical reactions, wouldn’t you think that people who chew their food better would actually end up gaining more weight? Think about it… there would be more surface area of food and therefore more of it would get digested into the body.


September 13, 2011

Yeah, eating slower does indeed encourage smaller meal portions. Though, I’d like to add that it’s not just about finishing your meal slowly, but also chewing your food 20-30 times before swallowing. This makes it much easier for your body to break down the food and makes it digest a lot better.

Juan J. Ramirez
September 23, 2011

Of course; eating slowly is good for a better digestion; for some people this is a serious problem like acid reflux which can have consequences if not corrected or treated correctly.

Juan J. Ramirez
September 12, 2011

I am the inventor of a new type of plates that keep food hot; People will never acquire the habit of eating slowly if food gets cold. They can look for “plates for eating slowly” “Heat Retentive Plates” “Keep Warm Dish”, etc.
I don’t dare to mention a brand or where to get them but they need only one minute microwaving remain still hot after 30 minutes and can be handled safely with the bare hands by the rim which stays cool.
I am a firm believer in eating slowly; nowadays most experts agree that it helps prevent overeating. I hope the prestige of Harvard University helps people understand that this is a serious matter now that the world has this tremendous obesity problem with all its consequences: Diabetes, hypertension etc.

J. Duncan McNeill
September 5, 2011

Yes that is correct, if you eat slowly your gut has time to send the full message to the brain. In my weight loss book “The Good Nutrition Weight Loss Plan” that point is stressed.
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rick britton
September 3, 2011

I will be sure to pass this on to my readers who are snoring and sleep apnea sufferers. I hope this message can help them lose weight and improve their health

thanks for a great post
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September 1, 2011

Oddly enough, I read this when I returned to my desk after lunch today. And what’s odd about that is that I uncharacteristically ate in the break room with coworkers, rather than in front of my computer checking blog posts. I know I ate more slowly today, because I was part of a conversation. And I had noticed, even as I ate, that I was eating more slowly, was more aware of my food, and was conscious of feeling full. As a single person, I eat alone a lot and eat mindlessly. Watching my coworkers eating while I ate I think contributed to my awareness.

September 1, 2011

be careful eatng while talking to people though, it ups the chances of choking as you are gabbing and not concentrating.

August 23, 2011

Eyeball your food a little longer if you’re looking to shed some pounds, because wolfing it down too fast may make you prone to overeat, a new study shows.

So savor those aromas, relish the meal’s presentation, and don’t just dig in like you’ve got to finish it off in a hurry, researchers report in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Eating a meal quickly puts the kibosh on the release of hormones in the gut that induce feelings of being full, and this can lead to overeating, says study researcher Alexander Kokkinos, MD, PhD, from Laiko General Hospital in Athens, Greece.

In short, eating too fast blocks the release of gut hormones that help make you feel full, and thus you may overeat.

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August 15, 2011

In my whole family most of my family members eat fast and i eat slowly they always shout at me to eat fast but now i think they are wrong and i am right as your post direct us to eat slowly for better fullness.

September 1, 2011

in my family, i noticed my older brothers always ate fastest, in part to get more of the vittles. my twin sister ate faster as well, whereas i ate too slow as a child, and was always underweight. she was always the bigger of us 2, hit puberty first and so forth. well, i made the mistake of eating with her more than i should have in recent years, and because i felt intimidated to eat faster too, to be done sooner, as she made me feel there was something wrong with me, but i actually was embarrassed by the way she shovels it in and you know it means she can’t taste or enjoy it as much. she has always had trouble controlling her weight, but she just doesn’t get the connection, and even when she has a tiny portion of food, she gobbles it. i told her the jury is in, that there is a thing that registers in your brain about fullness, she just doesn’t WANT to have her appetite ruined, i guess. but also, that you not only don’t taste it as good, but it can’t really get processed in the palate and really enjoyed right. but, she has binge disorder and won’t desist. she actually has become very shy about eating in public, [my family kind of has that anyway], but she doesn’t get it that people were probably in awe of her sometimes, like she should be at CONEY ISLAND in a contest, seeing a chubby person speed eat probably fascinates them too. i guess it can’t be helped, and made me eat faster so i just need to get away as i have gained by speeding up myself, and by making worse food and size choices. i heard that more folks eating makes you eat more, so eating alone is best. i was always thinner, but i’ve heard that underwieght folks can be prone to being overweight later, well i think in todays world, everybody is prone to being fat eventually, it’s a matter of time.

Gabriel Jeffries
August 15, 2011

I remember the school days when they say you have to chew each bit of food 32 times with 32 teeth, so that we are not only making our food intake slower, but also making sure that the load inside the stomach is less. I seeing people eating on the road to office as they do not have enough time to eat. We have to make some time for our food and eat in a peaceful manner. Informative article. Thanks for sharing..

Grant C.
August 14, 2011

I spent around 30 yrs. fighting the fat gremlins before finding the solution and beating the little devil’s. I found that eating slow helped when also engaged in conversation or some mind absorbing activity. In general it was more helpful to eat till feeling full with fresh vegetables & lean protein. Avoiding any added sugars and reducing starches to less than 10% of daily calorie intake worked well and permanently for me.

Hyperventilation Prevalence
July 22, 2011

Eating slowly is an exceptionally useful idea to reduce chances of overeating. I would like to point attention to another part of this story: how overeating worsens nearly all chronic health problems? It is simple. Overeating increases ventilation causing alveolar hypocapnia and tissue hypoxia due to chronic hyperventilation. If you search the web for Hyperventilation Prevalence, you can easily get tens of studies that testify that people with chronic diseases are hyperventilating.
Eating slowly prevents this.
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July 14, 2011

This is one of those areas I’ve definitely got to work on. With 2 young kids at home, mealtime sometimes feels like battle time. We’re trying to keep the 2 year old at the table and eating, the baby is crying because she needs to eat, and we’re usually just trying to rush through eating the meal so we can get on to the next thing.

Healthy Teens
July 2, 2011

My mom always has said to eat slow and you won’t eat as much. It seems to work in our family as non of us are over weight. I must agree with your closing statement when you penned,

Appetite is complex, and dieting is a challenge. Even so, people who are trying to lose weight may want to start by chewing more slowly. In that way, they allow themselves enough time to experience pleasure and satiety.

You know when you are over weight and trying to fit in you will try just about anything.

June 20, 2011

I think many diet books are just talking rubbish in my opinion, I just dont think it matters how slow or how fast you eat, at the end of the day it still goes down the same hole lol. I think if people were advised to eat the correct foods at the correct times plus focus on regular high intensity exercise rather than trying sitting by the tv trying to loose weight by eating “slower” then more people would be at the ideal weight they want to be.

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Scott Diet Solution Guy
June 9, 2011

people who are trying to lose weight may want to start by chewing more slowly

jerry vanhorn
June 2, 2011

Hey ive been reading your posts and have to say you are a great writer also your comments are great and you stay updated what i have to say about the topic is if you eat fast you get too full, because by the time your stomach has told your brain that it is full, you have already eaten another portion.

Dr Sarah Thornton-Miller
May 7, 2011

There is no question that appetite is triggered and satisfied in a very complicated way and its connection to chemical activity in the brain makes an intriguing connection for a cognitive research specialist like me. Our own studies have shown that cholecystokinin and leptin can be increased if the meal being consumed is rich in B vitamins .Additionally adding nutrients like L-Theanine or L Methionine to a diet may also increase the production of leptin ,which in addition to helping adjust appetite can also help stabilise moods.

Dr Sarah Thornton-Miller (MBBS) is a highly respected London based brain specialist with 25 years of research focus on the effects of the many naturally occurring nutrients found in popular brain supplements in helping control anxiety as well as successfully treating depression, preventing memory loss or easing attention deficit disorders .

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help to loss weight
April 18, 2011

I’ve tried eating slowly, and have not seen any difference in my weight. I’ll keep trying.

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March 30, 2011

My wife and I are bariatric patients (gastric bypass roux-en-y) and eat slower by necessity. We read the digestive system is like a “second brain” with neurotransmitters almost like an independent CNS. Will you comment on this?

Ann MacDonald
March 30, 2011

Hi Paul!

Interesting question. I looked at a story on stress and the sensitive gut that we published in the Harvard Mental Health Letter. Here is a brief (albeit somewhat technical) explanation for why some people do refer to the gut as a “second brain.”

Harvard Mental Health Letter, Aug. 2010:

Life-sustaining functions, such as breathing, heartbeat, blood pressure, and body temperature, are regulated through the autonomic nervous system. This complex network of nerves extends from the brain to all the major organs of the body and has two major divisions. The sympathetic nervous system triggers the “fight or flight” response. The parasympathetic nervous system calms the body down after the danger has passed. Both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems interact with another, less well-known component of the autonomic nervous system — the enteric nervous system, which helps regulate digestion.

The enteric nervous system is sometimes referred to as a “second brain” because it relies on the same types of neurons and neurotransmitters that are found in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). After sensing that food has entered the gut, neurons lining the digestive tract signal muscle cells to initiate a series of intestinal contractions that propel the food farther along, breaking it down into nutrients and waste. At the same time, the enteric nervous system uses neurotransmitters such as serotonin to communicate and interact with the central nervous system.

This “brain-gut axis” helps explain why researchers are interested in understanding how psychological or social stress might cause digestive problems. When a person becomes stressed enough to trigger the fight-or-flight response, for example, digestion slows or even stops so that the body can divert all its internal energy to facing a perceived threat. In response to less severe stress, such as public speaking, the digestive process may slow or be temporarily disrupted, causing abdominal pain and other symptoms of functional gastrointestinal disorders. Of course, it can work the other way as well: persistent gastrointestinal problems can heighten anxiety and stress.

How to lose weight in your face
March 24, 2011

I think that eating slower does help you to better gauge your level of fullness. If I eat too fast, as I often do, many times I feel uncomfortably full shortly after I eat. When I eat slower I seem to be able to stop eating feeling full and satisfied instead of over stuffed and uncomfortable. Therefore I do agree that eating slower can aid in weight loss.

Jim Finnerty
February 27, 2011

re: the only way to increase your metabolism is to exercise more… actually helps to curb your appetite

I don’t think you meant to suggest that your base metabolic rate would change with exercise (neglecting second order effects due to changes to non-skeletal body mass over time). Unfortunately, expending more energy by exercising does not necessarily result in a negative energy balance, because our bodies compensate for the expended energy by consuming more food.

As exhibit “A” I will point to the many people working out on treadmills and elliptical machines. Despite a huge increase in weight awareness, nutrition, and the adoption of more fitness-oriented lifestyles over the past 40 years, the population is getting fatter, not slimmer.

As exhibit “B”, consider the population of overweight recreational cyclists. There are many of them. These people routinely burn 2000 kcal on a weekend ride, and by the simple logic above they should all be rail thin if they wanted to be. Many of them who want this very much may still be unsuccessful at reaching their target weight, but my observation is that they appear to be better able to control their %bodyfat better than non-cyclists.

As a cyclist, my experience is that a ride of up to 60 minutes in duration will not result in any weight loss, because the body will send out the signals to consume just enough calories to replace those that were burned. You will be healthier for having worked out, but you will not lower your %bodyfat. If, however, you go for longer rides, AND if you are disciplined about not “rewarding” yourself too much after the ride, over a period of months, then you can successfully operate at a negative energy balance and you can reduce %bodyfat.

Secondly, and to the point of eating more slowly, I have found two techniques to be helpful for me: (1) put the utensil down between bites, and (2) wait 20 minutes after eating what you have planned to eat for dinner before deciding that you haven’t had enough. For me, and for some other people, 20 minutes after eating seems to be the point of maximum satiety. If you are still hungry 20 minutes later, then go ahead and eat a little more. You need it.


Ann MacDonald
February 28, 2011

Hi Jim,

Good points, all. I did not mean to imply that exercising is a cure for overeating. As you note, people may overeat after exercising, thereby negating the good by consuming too many calories. Sadly, weight maintenance comes down to the formula of calories in = calories burned.

I love the ’20 minute’ rule. That’s worth trying.

Thanks for writing.


Mark Walters
February 25, 2011

I agree when you mentioned that dieting is a challenged. Now a days people are more conscious with their calorie intake but only few of them where conscious about their bmr or basal metabolic rate and why is that so? If you eat small meals would it help it metabolized faster that’s why it can help lose weight? is there any connections between eating slowly/faster and having a low/high metabolism?


Ann MacDonald
February 25, 2011

Hello Mark,

Interesting question! Base metabolic rate — basically, the rate at which we burn calories per hour — varies from one person to the next, but also changes as we age. Metabolic rate accounts for about 70% of the calories we burn every day, and yet it’s mostly controlled by what is out of our control (age, sex, age). The remaining 30% of calories are expended through things we do, such as exercise.

Unfortunately there is no dietary supplement or food pattern that can boost our metabolic rate. The only way to increase your metabolism is to exercise more–such as taking a brisk walk or climbing some stairs. As an added boos, exercise actually helps to curb your appetite.

If you’re interested in learning more, I suggest a good book on this topic (and the source of my information above): Break Through Your Set Point, by Dr. George L. Blackburn and Julie Corliss, both of Harvard Medical School.

February 22, 2011

What would you say about eating slowly throughout the day though? Like stretching your two or three meals into five or six meals. I heard this is better because your metabolism is constantly at work, which is more efficient than your metabolism starting and stopping throughout the day if you eat two or three larger meals. Great post though Ann.

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Ann MacDonald
February 22, 2011

Hi David,

I’ve also heard that eating multiple small meals a day might help people lose weight–maybe because it helps with hunger pangs between meals. The challenge is to keep the portions small, though. Otherwise you just may end up consuming a lot more calories per day, with all those extra meals.

Thanks for writing!

Adrian Meli
February 16, 2011

Thanks for the post Ann. I would be interested in reading something longer on the merits of eating slower vs. faster. It makes intuitive sense eating more slowly would work but it would be interesting to see if eating fast is correlated with being overweight, being tall, race, sex, metabolism, etc. I think the article would be more effective if grounded in more data. Thanks! – Adrian Meli

December 29, 2010

It would make sense that eating slower would help you eat less. When you are in a hurry, you tend to just quickly shovel down the food without your body having time to catch up and signal that it is full. Also eating a proper diet of foods will help you to control your weight because you will not have as many cravings.

Exercise is also important for burning fat and staying in good physical condition.

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Brain supplements
November 28, 2010

Thanks for this interesting post. Only just found this site and will be sure to bookmark it as all the posts I have read on it so far have been of real quality and value. I feel very excited and satisfying for your article.

November 16, 2010

I think that chewing your food more and eating slower will help to eat less. If you are shoveling your food into your mouth and hardly chewing then by the time your stomach sends the signal that it is full it is too late. You are then over full. Portion control and education on what to eat and when to eat it is the only way for people to lose weight and keep it off.


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November 14, 2010

Not just eating slowly but doing many things slowly helps a lot. For instance, a slowly done 6 reps is better than quickly done 60 reps. The reason is when we do the things slowly, we do those things appropriately. Thus, it results the best.

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UK Business Forum
November 11, 2010

I tend to eating quite slowly compared to a few people I know. I always mention to people I know that chewing slowly will be more beneficial than just shovelling food down.

Joe Kendal
November 8, 2010

This confirm what most already know and should do but fail to do so. I think it is key that anyone looking to gain size by following a muscle plan or lose weight as part of a diet plan, that they chew slowly. As this great post already says, this will give you more time to enjoy your food and time for your body to adjust to the intake of food.

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Dave Fibromyalgia
November 2, 2010

I think the chewing slowly works the same as drinking a glass of water before the meal. You have a time delay in the feel full feeling and slowing down eating allows you to feel full by taking longer to eat.

Fibromyalgia Sufferer
October 30, 2010

I know that diet is very important I have to eat properly or my fibromyalgia flares up and hurts a great deal. I do eat lots more vegetables and fruits and have found it to help me now only loose weight but to feel better with the Fibromyalgia. Good point on eating slowly. Thank you for the post.

Brittany Schieferecke
October 28, 2010

As a person who thinks they eat at a pretty normal pace, I do not really notice when the people around me eat fast or slow. I usually eat to the pace of the environment that I am in. This article helped me pay more attention to the way I eat and the way my peers eat. And I have now noticed that the times I eat slower I feel better when the feeling of being full appears, as opposed to the times I ate fast I felt overstuffed when the feeling hit me.
I was wondering if the leptin resistance is more due to the fact that the stomach of these overweight people is larger; or is the neurotransmitter dopamine overriding these hormones? And if leptin increases the effect of cholecystokinin (CCK) does the CCK just take longer to reach the brain, therefore, making the fullness feeling come later?

Ann MacDonald
November 16, 2010

Hello! You ask an interesting question, and I didn’t know the answer. I did some quick research, and yes, people who are overweight or obese do develop leptin resistance, much in the same way as people with diabetes have insulin resistance. The appetite control system consists of multiple molecules interacting, and its extremely complex. As for the role of dopamine, the following article, published by the Dana Foundation (a respected source of brain information) can explain its interactions with the appetite system better than I can. Hope it helps.

Jan Plotkin
October 21, 2010

I notice that people who are overweight are often the fastest eaters. They tend to shovel food in without noticing what they are eating. I am thin and never have had a weight issue, and also tend to eat more slowly appreciating the flavors, colors and time spent preparing the meal. I tend to stop eating before I am stuffed. I can better understand now that if an overweight person has leptin resistance that they may not know when to stop. Perhaps training in mindful eating could help an overweight person slow down.

Joya Ganguly
August 29, 2011

Try many different eating plans until you find one that keeps you motivated and strong during any weight emergencies.
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August 30, 2011

So as an overweight person and having many overweight friends I must say that all the overweight people I know do not eat fast. A lot of the friends that I know do not even eat that much. Myself for example, unless I go to a buffet or it is a holiday I eat the normal amount of food that is said to be in a serving size, yet I still am overweight. It is not fair to imply that you noticed overweight people are the “fastest eaters” only because maybe you notice them because they are shoveling food and just happen to be overweight. Maybe you just don’t notice the slower ones, because it is not that obvious. I know many people that are not overweight who are down right skinny that eat faster than most of the overweight people that I know. Please be careful when you lump people of a certain group together, it is another way of profiling and can be offensive. The person who eats fast does so because that is how they are not because of how much they weigh. It is also important to take other factors into consideration such as thyroid problems for example, they can make it nearly impossible to lose weight no matter what you eat… This was the case with my aunt. Please just be careful how you word things is basically what I am trying to say. Thank you and have a good day.

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