I have a reputation for eating fast. My friend Dustin concocted a story that when I was child I had to wear gloves when I ate so I would not accidentally bite one of my fingers. Dustin brings this up at the most embarrassing times. Unfortunately for me this ridiculous cock and bull story seems plausible. Dustin has convinced dozens of people that it might be true, even my younger sister. (WTF Ann?! Have a little faith in me.)
The eating glove myth started back in college. It had something to do with pizza. I guess I was eating more than my fair share and it pissed Dustin off. Then it became a joke. One time he frantically called me into his dorm room as I happened to walk by. He was sharing a Monical’s pizza with his then girlfriend (now wife) Christine. He offered me a slice. This was weird and suspicious, but I knew that he wanted Christine to see how fast I would eat pizza. I played along and ate a slice in one bite. Before we go further it’s worth noting that Monical’s cuts its pizza in small squares, not the more conventional wedges. This is not as bad as you may think, but you wouldn’t know that from Christine’s reaction. She was speechless. Dustin was on the floor laughing. I smirked and walked out of the room.
I used to take pride in how fast I and how much I could eat in one sitting. I once had a standing competition with my cousin Joe at Thanksgiving and Easter on who could eat more (we had virtually unlimited food at these family events). Joe outweighed me by a good 30 or 40 pounds, but I still sometimes bested him. How? Because I inhaled my food so fast that my brain didn’t know my stomach was full. Putting Joe to shame was fun, but there comes a time when it’s no longer cool or funny to eat an entire Monical’s Family Pleaser by yourself in 15 minutes.
Why did I ever eat so fast in the first place? I don’t know. Maybe I just wanted to get back to playing Nintendo. I suppose it was easier to eat fast when left to my own devices. The funny thing is that I eat really slowly if I’m having a conversation with a friend over dinner. By the time I finish rambling on about whatever stupid thing is on my mind the other person is finished. I’ve barely had three bites and my plate is cold, yet somehow I still feel full. In the latter case, eating slowly was easier because I couldn’t talk and inhale my food at the same time. (Among many other things, my mom raised me properly not to talk when my mouth is full.)
Hmm…same activity very different behavior…what’s the deal? I haven’t given any thought until now why it felt easier to eat fast or slow. The only difference was the environment I was eating in. That’s the key for me. My environment shapes my behavior.
My environment always gives me choices to make and I react. Whatever feels easiest is what gets done. This is true for eating and also true for other things. If I’m not paying attention, I end up watching TV and checking Facebook (many times simultaneously) for hours on end. I rarely intend to do these passive activities, but they just feel easy. A hell of lot easier than things I want to do like reading and writing. I frequently intend to do those active activities, but always have to cajole myself by paying very close attention.
My point is that in order to live with intention you must pay attention, particularly to your environment. You can do better than just reacting to life. I already know this and apply it to certain areas of my life. I manipulate my environment so that reading and writing are easier and watching TV and Facebook are more difficult. I even do this for my eating habits. My environment is set up so that it’s easier to eat healthy foods because junk food is not available (or at least hidden from view).
Getting back to eating gloves, I only considered what I was eating not how I was eating it. Maybe that’s why Dustin’s fabricated story is still plausible and enduring. I’ll never be able to stop Dustin from embarrassing me with this, but I can make his story less believable by consciously eating at a more moderate pace.
Having a vague goal to eat slower is great and all, but the devil is in the details. How can I set up my environment so that I don’t inhale my food? What I need is a simple rule that is easy to remember and follow at all times. The closest thing to that I can think of is to resolve to put fork down (or hand in the case of pizza) until I’m finished with the current bite.
I’m curious to see how my plan goes. Simple rules are great because you can put them into practice almost immediately. Simple is to remember easy, but simple is not always easy to actually do. Simple can break down in the heat of the moment when I’m really hungry or stressed (or just in a pissy mood). The simple rule only works when it becomes the default before the heat of the moment.
In spite of some drawbacks simple is the best place to start. Complicated layers can always be added later if simple isn’t working.
Needless to say, the next time Dustin offers me a slice of pizza I won’t eat all of it in one bite.
Thanks for reading.