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Aug 28, 2013 12:37 PM

Slow eaters

Okay, so it's been agreed on that servers should not remove the plates until everyone has finished. Well, my sister has got to be the slowest eater ever. I've seen her cut an olive into three pieces. Our last meal, she cut, with a knife, the most tender medium sizes scallop into at least six forkfulls. Teeny, tiny nibbles of salad. The smallest taste of soup at a time. No more than a half teaspoon of cole slaw at a time. Just to be clear, there are no medical swallowing issues here. She is just the pokiest eater The rest of us are not in a hurry, but get impatient. Family dinners took forever. in a restaurant, I eventually want my plate gone. If there are 6 people at the table who have already finished, isn't there a point where she should pack it in out of consideration to others? Yes, like I started with, plates should remain until all are finished, but there's a point when a slow eater should observe the pace of others.

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  1. What she should do and what she will do are probably two different things.

    If she does what you describe, and others have commented on it and expressed frustration, then she might be using her eating as a power play. Or perhaps not. You know her best.

    1. I think it really depends on the type of place and the company ...whether or not it's an occasion or a simple dinner.

      I'm always the last to finish my meal...even when on a date.

      I always announce when I would like to be home .....just to keep it moving in case we lose track of time.

      1. It sounds as though she's got some food or control issues. Those who are frustrated by her pace need to speak directly to her about it, not by criticizing her but by asking for her cooperation in finding a mutually-agreeable compromise. Explain to her that her pace makes dining together take longer than others find acceptable. Perhaps she can limit the number of courses. No appetizer or soup course for her, ask the server to bring her entree right away. If she wants the other courses, have them packed up so she can have them at home at her leisure. The same kind of situation occurs when a member of the party talks so much that s/he takes forever to finish eating. No restaurant should take the initiative to clear the table while she is still eating, though it might help to point out to her that the establishment would certainly like to be able to turn the table in the typical time interval.

        13 Replies
        1. re: greygarious

          Yep, the behavior the OP describes sounds like that of an anorexic or recovering anorexic. My daughter's good friend (now in recovery) did the same thing while she was ill. We just ignored it when she "ate" at our house and tried to avoid restaurants until she felt ready to go to one without getting stressed out.

          1. re: Isolda

            isolda: yes, anorexia is the closest fit. my bet would be anorexia too. practically classical symptoms.

            another fit might well be some sort of ocd.

            in any case, a professional work up by someone specializing in these issues would be the best approach for the sister if she would agree to it.

            1. re: westsidegal

              But...wouldn't an anorexic use the fact that others have already finished eating as an excuse to stop eating him/herself. Anorexics have a phobia of eating too much, and will generally use any excuse for not eating, or for eating less.

              1. re: josephnl

                The last thing people with eating disorders want is to eat in public or attract attention to themselves eating. However, no one here knows what the issue is. It is pointless to guess.

                Her behavior (for whatever reason) is controlling, passive aggressive and rude because she knows her dinner companions are finished, she leaves them sitting with dirty plates in front of them until she decides to be finished, she knows they are annoyed and irritated but continues to eat tiny amounts while they all watch her.

                IMO even if she had a medical reason for slow eating, she should "pack it up" after a reasonable amount of time, just out of consideration for the others she is dining with. I have had to do that when I had dental surgery. I didn't make the whole table wait for me and watch me eat!

                1. re: sedimental

                  You say no one knows what the issue is, but then you are comfortable knowing that this is passive aggressive? No, we do not know that.

                  1. re: debbiel

                    Her "behavior" is passive aggressive behavior as described by the OP. Passive aggressive behavior is not an "issue" it is a behavior style.

                    1. re: sedimental

                      Well, I"m not much up for a discussion of issue v. style. I still disagree that we know that the behavior is passive aggressive. And that, rather than whether or not it was an issue or what you meant when you used the word issue, was the point of my comment.

              2. re: westsidegal

                i thought the same. i'm currently in recovery myself from anorexia, and the behaviors mentioned here immediately made me think anorexia. in the eating disorders field/world, they're usually called "abnormal pacing" and "micro-cutting".

                every case is different with eating disorders, and not stopping when others have finished is not necessarily an indicator (or not) of an eating disorder.

                her defensive reaction when being questioned REALLY makes me think eating disorder. that said, it's clearly a sensitive topic (for whatever reason), so the best advice i can give would be to 1) investigate eating disorder resources available for friends, family, and loved ones who are concerned about someone else, and 2) sit down with her in a calm, neutral, non-food setting, and express what you've noticed in terms of concern and curiosity, not accusation or frustration.
                these links: and may have useful information for you.

                it's tough to say if she is or isn't suffering from some kind of problem just from a description online, but i think it sounds worth investigating. remember, even if she is suffering from an eating disorder, control or anxiety issues, or a dysfunctional relationship with food and/or body image, she may reject your advances, deny anything is wrong, become angry or defensive, withdraw, or become angry. she is an adult, and all you can do is make it clear that if there IS a problem, you're available and willing to help and support her if she wants it.

                if there's nothing else underlying it, it's kind of rude.

                good luck!

                1. re: chartreauxx

                  "if there's nothing else underlying it, it's kind of rude."


                  Right on. I spent years being angry at a "slow eater," and I felt like a cad when I later learned that she had been struggling with anorexia the whole time.

              3. re: Isolda

                My youngest step daughter was and still is a painfully slow eater. I first noticed when she was 8 years old but any comments I made were dismissed with 'leave her alone, she'll be fine. She'll grow out of it'. She was a very slender, frail child and apparently bottle fed until 5 years old.

                Now at age 21 she behavior is no different. Her BMI is about 14.5. At meal times she still cuts food into tiny pieces and spreads it over the plate to give the illusion that she has a lot of food. She takes small bites and often appears to lose concentration, almost to be in a trance, between bites.

                While she was in school it was not too big of an issue, just an annoyance for me. But now she has just had to quit a job because should just could not handle any physical activity. Her fitness level is 'very low'.

                She appears unable to gain weight, but loses it easily. She often comments that she is fat, spends a lot of time in front of a mirror and takes numerous 'selfies'. I am very concerned about her but her mother and rest of the family seem oblivious.

                1. re: matmeeking

                  BMI under 17.5 is diagnosable for anorexia nervosa, particularly considered along with the distorted body image. While this thread has shown that slow eating can be for a variety of reasons, including just temperament and habit and preference, it sounds like your step daughter may benefit from a professional evaluation.

                    1. re: matmeeking

                      that's dangerous low, like death dying emergency low. if it's not an eating disorder (i'd bet the farm it is), then she has some other health crisis going on. she needs a doctor NOW. no, not now, yesterday. good luck...

                2. My dad was a slow eater. My mom was like lightning. I fell somewhere in the middle.

                  When we used to dine out, if we were finished while Dad was still eating, we'd order coffee or a cocktail to sip while we all chatted and he finished.

                  I don't want to be maudlin, but there will be a time when you won't have your family around the table with you. Either deal with your sister, or don't go out to eat---eat in someone's home, or eat at a restaurant that's not worried about turning tables quickly. It's not a business lunch, so what's the rush?

                  Just playing devil's advocate.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: pinehurst

                    I agree. I would give anything to have my sister back to have a slow lunch/dinner with. Cherish the time together.

                    1. re: basketwoman

                      Well said. Everbody is in such a hurry these days. Spend time with family or the people you enjoy being around when at a restaurant or at the dinner table.This is what matters. Not the food. Slow down and enjoy. Life is short.

                    2. re: pinehurst

                      Yep, add me to that list. My mom became a very slow eater over the past few years. My brother and I were sure it was some kind of passive-aggressive thing on her part. She passed away two months ago and I would give anything to be able to take her to one of her favorite restaurants and sit through a mediocre chain restaurant meal watching her eat at a snail's pace.

                      1. re: jlhinwa

                        Well said, jlhinwa. That's rather poignant.

                    3. While the restaurant should never take the initiative, you could, after an appropriate interval, ask that the rest of the table be cleared. Then enjoy dessert and coffee while she finishes her entree.