Slow, mindful eating is perhaps the most important thing you can do if you’re trying to lose weight or improve your health. Some of the benefits of slow eating include helping you eat less, feel more satisfied, and get more enjoyment out of your food. And several studies show that faster eating leads to weight gain, as does eating while watching TV or playing games.
However, if you’re like many, it’s hard to slow down after a lifetime of fast eating. So instead of consciously trying to slow down with your meals, a better approach may be to make meals more of a pleasurable experience by eliminating some of the distractions.
But what about music? Well several studies have shown that music can be a powerful driver of behavior. For example, one study showed that when German music was playing in a wine shop, people bought more German wine. But when French music came on, they bought more French wine instead.
Other studies also show that when slower music is playing in restaurants, customers spend more time dining, and also spend more money on both food and drinks. Likewise, in grocery stores, when slower music is playing, costumers spend more time shopping and also spend more money.
So how does music affect eating speed? A study published in December 2020, revealed that what you hear while you eat can impact how fast you eat. In this study, participants were asked to eat 70% dark chocolate while wearing noise-cancelling headphones. During some parts of the study they listened to fast music, sometimes they heard slow music, and at other times they listened to no music at all.
The researchers found that people ate faster when they listened to music with a fast tempo (145 bpm) and they ate slower when they listened to music with a slow tempo (45 bpm). And, interestingly, people ate slower listening to any kind of music compared to when they ate in silence.
The hypothesis here is that slower music makes people feel calmer and more relaxed, which may make it easier to eat slowly and mindfully.
The point here is that how we feel when we eat really makes a difference. And so instead of trying to force slower meals, a better approach may be to take steps to feel more relaxed during mealtimes. This may mean listening to soft music, lighting candles, taking some long, deep breaths before eating, avoiding stressful conversations at the dinner table, and of course turning off the electronic devices.
This week, I challenge you to find what makes you feel most relaxed when you eat. Notice how meals are different when you feel calm.
Next week we’ll tackle the effect social media can have on our body image.
Mathiesen SL, Mielby LA, Byrne DV, Wang QJ. Music to eat by: A systematic investigation of the relative importance of tempo and articulation on eating time. Appetite. 2020 Dec 1;155:104801.