I practice eating the way some people practice to get better at sports.
This goes against not one but two highly ingrained habits: cleaning my plate and always wanting to “finish off” the last bit of leftovers. I used to think, “This is just how I am. At least I recognize this pattern in myself, and so I’ll compensate by not loading too much on my plate.”
Which is a good start. But I’ve also learned that with eating, as in everything else, practicing an unfamiliar action makes it easier to do in future repetitions.
Stopping the eating process once I’ve locked in on something is really, really hard. And yet … I’m discovering it can be done.
Over the weekend, after a rare Sunday dinner at home, I picked up the bowl of mashed potatoes that had maybe an inch left along the bottom, thinking I’d just finish it off. I hadn’t had any during the meal itself because I wasn’t sure there would be enough for everyone. But when I took a bite, they were kind of bland and watery – which is probably why there was some left in the bowl in the first place. (I’m tempted to say this is what happens when I don’t taste as I cook, but the real problem is that I had Colleen mix these up and I wasn’t paying close enough attention to what she was doing. So this mistake technically wasn’t my doing, but it was ultimately my fault.)
Anyway, ordinarily it takes a lot more than subpar taste to stop the momentum of my eating engines. (It’s almost like there’s some primitive part of my brain that compels me to suck up sweets and fats and starches so that I can survive the coming famine, as outdated a notion as that seems.) But this time, in that split second between the time I registered the inferior taste and before the spoon dipped back into the bowl, I remembered that recently I had successfully terminated such an act.
Even though I couldn’t remember specifically what food or occasion that was (and still can’t, another sign I’m getting old), this vague recollection not only gave me the confidence to try putting on the brakes but – more importantly – gave me the incentive to build on the success of that previous eating session.
So I did it: I put down the spoon.
Having done this twice now, I’m curious to try it again – though I’m certainly not going to go out of my way to taste bad food.
For someone who likes to eat as much as I do, it feels like it could be awfully liberating to eliminate tasteless crap from my life so I’m better able to focus on the good stuff.