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20 Minute Cure for Wolfing Down Dinner


We get busy. Rush, rush, rush!   And we speed through dinner preparation with hungry kids.  So naturally, when we all sit down to eat, the racing pace continues.  I know I’m not the only mom that has spent an hour to produce a delicious dinner that gets wolfed down in 10 minutes!

Now you may think I am exaggerating, but if you put on your kitchen timer when you serve dinner, you’ll find out I am probably on target.  I didn’t really believe it myself, and the first meal I forgot that I’d set the timer.  It rang and surprised me while I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth, and everyone had long scattered from the dinner table.

Did you know it takes your brain 20 minutes to register that you’ve had enough food? Twenty minutes before you actually register satisfaction and want to stop eating.  If you rush through your dinner, eating as fast as you’ve lived your day, you can pack away twice the volume of food before your 20 minutes blood sugar memo ever hits your brain and says “stop!”

One of the explanations of why South America women are slim, in spite of a less than ideal diet, is that their culture defines mealtime as a time to visit, chat, relax, sit back and relish a break in the day. When we were in Chile, I enjoyed watching the people eat.  They came into a restaurant and looked like they were planning to spend the afternoon.  There was no rushing, no urgency to get through and get out.  They were just hanging out, getting something to drink or a snack. They talked and visited—maybe later they’d order food. They would stand, greet and embrace anyone who joined their party. Getting the food down was not the main event. 

Eat slowly to eat less.  It’s relaxing. It’s a nice change from a hectic lifestyle. It allows the day’s tension to melt off. It  lets you really enjoy and taste the food.  It gives you a chance to talk and discuss things with each other.  It puts us more in tune with children, whose natural pace is not hurry, hurry.

Twenty minutes to savor and enjoy and take a break.  I like it.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Ruth Ann September 27, 2013, 10:34 am

    Thanks for emails. This brightened my day.

  • Laura September 27, 2013, 11:03 am

    Hi Diane,
    Here’s a question for you: How do I get my family to the table when I call them?
    It seems to take a LONG time to get them all together at the table, and quieted down so we can start the meal, even when I know that they are “starving”. We’ve tried making those who don’t come right away sit out and watch the rest of us eat, but they still seem to “take their time” coming to the table…Either that, or the call to dinner is their queue to go to the bathroom for a “long” time…Any suggestions would be appreciated!

    • Diane Hopkins September 27, 2013, 11:15 am

      It’s frustrating, isn’t it?!

      I’ve tried several things, and some help more than others. I think the thing that worked the best was “10 Minute Warning”. Most people have a hard time just disengaging from what they are involved in and moving on to a new activity, even if it is dinner, and even if they are hungry! But if you give them a ten minute warning: “Dinner is ready in 10 minutes!”, they can usually finish up and be ready. I also gave them a second call, a 5 minute warning, because distracted people lose track of time. Then we started eating, no matter who was at the table. Even if I had to say the blessing by myself and start eating. It didn’t take too long for others to get the idea that I was not waiting, and that I was not making more food, and I was not saving any for them. People train quickly if the consequence matters enough to them, and most people don’t want to miss out on a hot delicious meal. If they think you’ll wait, why should they hurry!?

      Hope that helps!

  • Grandma Honey September 27, 2013, 3:00 pm

    I learn from you. I’m still wearing a necklace everyday, thanks to you.