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Why You Shouldn't Gobble Down Lunch in 20 Minutes

Everyone's working harder and feels pressured to cram more into the 9-5 (or longer) day, so it's no surprise that the lunch hour has gone by the wayside, almost viewed as a nuisance.

Alina Dizik wrote in a Wall Street Journal article that upscale restaurants around the country are finally getting on board, offering a 30-minute lunch from ordering to tipping. She wrote:

Menus and service are modified to fit the 30-minute format. Grilled fish and salads replace pork chops and steak; pastries and other desserts are preassembled. To keep interruptions at the table to a minimum, some restaurants even send out four courses at once on a bento-style china place setting.

Senior executives spend 35 minutes at lunch on average and work through lunch about three days a week, an OfficeTeam survey found. Another poll of 5,000 UK workers revealed that eight out of ten people take 30 minutes or less for lunch each day.

But Is the Express Lunch Good For You?

The evidence suggests it has the following negative effects on productivity and your health.

  • It makes you fat. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that fast-eating men were 84% more likely to be overweight compared with those who did not eat quickly, and female scarfers were more than twice as likely to carry excess weight. Eating fast may cause obesity because it interferes with the signalling system that alerts your brain that you're full. Your stomach basically fills up before the satiety messages have a chance to reach your brain, signalling you to stop eating.
  • It gives you heartburn. There is ample evidence that eating fast is what causes this ailment, which can lead to other more serious health problems like inflammation of the esophagus.
  • It doesn't help with your stress levels. One British survey found that people who said they regularly eat lunch away from their desks were better equipped to cope at work than those who quickly grab a bite at their desk. "We do see general increases in workers levels of happiness around the noon hour, presumably when they are taking a break or having lunch with a friend," says Tom Rath, a leader at Gallup's consulting business and author of Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements.
  • It doesn't help you cement social relationships. Having at least one hour social time can enhance your engagement in your work and your overall sense of well-being, says Rath. Plus, if you're having a business lunch, 30 minutes may feel rushed, not allowing time for casual conversations that are helpful in building a good rapport. Cut that out, and you might as well just meet in the conference room
Do you notice a difference in how you feel after a fast lunch versus a leisurely one?
Laurie Tarkan is an award-winning health journalist who writes for the New York Times, national magazines and websites including Health, Prevention, Ladies Home Journal, iVillage and the Huffington Post. Follow her on twitter.
Photo courtesy of flickr user Matt Seppings