I was having dinner with my parents recently when I noticed something new. About every 3-4 minutes, my Dad would put his silverware down and stop eating. At first I thought nothing of it, but after the third time, I had to say something.
"So what's with the stopping and starting?"
"I'm putting down my fork," my Dad replied.
"Okaaaay. And?" I asked.
"This way I can actually taste my food and enjoy the meal," he said. "Plus, then it's easier to not overeat."
Like many other wise words from my Dad over the years, the logic was simple: The way to slow down your meal was to put down your fork. We're always told that slowing down and taking more time to chew our food is better for digestion, but it's also better for signaling our brain that we're full. Since I'm always on the go, I hadn't realized that I was mostly using my fork as a shovel. In fact, most of my hot food rarely even had a chance to cool.
So I started putting down my fork and pausing more often during my meals -- well, during most of them. At first I experienced limited success, mostly because 1) I enjoy food so much and 2) I'd gotten into the habit of mindless eating. Darn those pesky unconscious habits.
Mindlessness can be defined as a lack of attention to the present moment. The opposite, mind-full-ness, involves paying close attention to the present moment -- our attitudes and behaviors -- and using that awareness to uncover unconscious behaviors. In this case, you learn mindful eating.
Once we become aware of bad habits, they become easier to change, right? Not so much. Putting down our fork may be simple, but not easy. New habits take time and can be integrated slowly into our routine -- and with mindfulness and patience, become our new patterns. Most lifelong changes evolve one bite at a time.
"If we can stop and savor our meals,
we can pause and ponder our lives."
The power is in the pause. Stepping back and taking the time to examine our thoughts, feelings, and intuition can help us activate the connection to our mind, body, and spirit and lead us to decisions that are in better alignment with our true selves.
Your Challenge: This week, try putting down your fork during a meal and take a moment to pause and breathe. Notice how this brief pause shifts your energy. How do you feel? Then apply this same principle to something in your life -- a problem or situation. Step back, pause, and think about the issue for a moment. After this extra time to ponder, did you come up with any new perspectives?
Something as simple as putting down our fork may improve our eating habits and teach us to develop a heightened awareness of our life habits and the choices we're making. After all, healthy habits don't just happen by themselves. With patience and focus, we can stop eating ourselves to death and, instead, start feeding ourselves for life.
Learn more about developing healthy habits in Balancing Work, Relationships & Life in Three Simple Steps, or another book in Michael's collection at michaelsunnarborg.com/books