Carl Honoré, a recovered "speedaholic," had an epiphany three years ago that caused him to slow down the hectic pace of his life.
A journalist based in London, Honoré read a newspaper article on timesaving tips that referenced a book of one-minute bedtime stories. He found it an appealing idea since he'd already gotten in the habit of speed-reading "The Cat in the Hat" to his son.
"My first reaction was, yes, one-minute bedtime stories," he said. "My next thought was, whoa, has it really come to this? That was really when a light bulb went off in my head."
He realized he had become so anxious to rush through the nightly ritual that he'd rather get seven or even eight stories done in less time than he'd normally spend reading one, quality time be damned.
So he embarked on finding a way to address the issue of "time poverty," the constant fast-forward motion in which many overscheduled, stressed-out Americans are always rushing toward their next task -- work, meals, family time, even sex -- rather than savoring what they consider most important.
Honoré's recent book, "In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed," has made him the unofficial godfather of a growing cultural shift toward slowing down.
"[There's a] backlash against the mainstream dictate that faster is always better, which puts quantity always ahead of quality," he said. "People all across the West are waking up to the folly of that."
For advocates of the Slow Movement, it's not about rejecting technology or changing modern life completely, but rather about keeping it all in balance -- not talking on the phone, driving and checking a BlackBerry while headed to the drive-thru before the next meeting.
"I love technology. I love speed. You need some things to be fast -- ice hockey, squash, a fast Internet connection," Honoré said. But, he said, "My passion for speed had become an addiction. I was doing everything faster."
The Slow Movement has been thriving for years in Europe, where Slow Cities encourage walking and more interaction with people. Slow Food, which advocates both healthy ingredients in cooking as well as enjoying meals, has been a force since the 1980s.
In the United States, the movement is small but growing. Slow Food USA has grown to 12,000 members in 140 chapters from 1,500 adherents when it was founded in 2000.
Erika Lesser, executive director of Slow Food USA, said part of the movement is about slowing down enough to not only enjoy food but spend time eating -- not just at a desk or in front of the TV. "It's something that we talk about all the time, something which manifests itself in what we try to set as an example for our members," she said. "Slowness is a philosophical idea. It's not like following a diet. People interpret it in their own way."
Even people with the most hectic schedules can apply some of the values to their lives, she said, by cooking one meal a week with family and friends and shopping at local farmer's markets rather than supermarkets.
In addition, Slow Food USA is working with schools to create gardens and utilize their produce to teach about biodiversity in the food supply. "We've tapped into this vein of interest in alternative food choices," she said.