Photo Credit: cultura/iloveimages/Getty Images
Forget that old rule about waiting 20 minutes to see if you're full -- a new study says that we only spend 39 minutes eating, all told, all day. That's barely more than half an hour total on breakfast (average: 7 minutes, 20 seconds), lunch (average: 12 minutes 49 seconds) and dinner (average: 19 minutes).
Now plenty of nutritionists will tell you why this is bad news. In fact, odds are, you already know: It really does take 20 minutes or so to see if you're full, so eating quickly means you miss those cues. And then you're cranky because you're suddenly way too full and don't understand why you had to eat the whole cheesecake. Or whatever. Which is not ideal, I'll grant you.
But I'm worried about this news for another reason: A lot of those rushed, eaten-while-driving meals happen so fast because we've gotten it into our heads that we really shouldn't be eating at all.
Think about how often you'll hear a friend say something along the lines of: "I can't believe I'm so hungry!" or "What's wrong with me? I'm starving!" I've been known to make these apologies myself. And I, for sure, hear women do this when they're running out from their offices to grab lunch. When they've been shopping for hours and hours at the mall. In other words: At times when it is perfectly normal for your body to send you some serious "feed me!" signals.
But instead of accepting and embracing that we-need-food-to-live thing, we've been conditioned to apologize almost anytime we eat anything. As a result, we're alarmed by how dramatic our hunger pangs seem to be, even when they're completely normal. And we eat as quickly as possible, to get that experience over with as soon as possible.
Yes, we're all rushed to death and feeding oneself takes time that you just don't have when you're chasing after kids/working insane hours/insert-your-excuse-for-missing-meals-here. Public health advocates are right to push for better access to grab-and-go healthy food, more education about simple cooking, and all the other ways they're working to get us to actually sit down and chew our food.
But while we're working on that stuff, I'd love to see more discussion of why women feel pressured to run all day on venti coffees and low-fat yogurt and pretend that cuts it. When it fact it does just the opposite and gets you into that "no idea whether I'm hungry or full" fugue state where you probably end up eating more than you intended/feeling cranky about the whole experience and -- hello, vicious circle! -- even more uncomfortable with the fact that you need to eat at all.