Put Down the Fork
As I was having dinner with my parents last week, 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.
“Hey Dad. What’s with the stopping and starting?”
“I’m putting down my fork,” he 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 so 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, and it’s also better for signaling our brain that we’re full. And up until that moment I hadn’t realized that my fork was basically just being used as a shovel. In fact, most of my hot food rarely even has a chance to cool.
So this week I started to put down my fork and pause more often during my meals. Well, at least during most of them. I experienced what I’d call “limited success”—mostly due to the fact that: 1) I enjoy food so much; and 2) I’ve gotten into the habit of mindless eating. Darn those pesky unconscious habits.
But it got me thinking.
There’s a lot of research out there about mindless eating, and if you read-up on the theory of mindlessness you’ll learn that it comes from a lack of attention to the present moment. In opposition, mind-full-ness involves paying close attention to the present moment—our thoughts, actions, and behaviors—and then using that awareness to uncover unconscious behaviors, like mindless eating.
So once we become aware of bad habits it’s easy to change them, 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.
Now let’s take the analogy of eating and apply it to the rest of our lives. When life is moving quickly we tend to go on autopilot—simply reacting and doing, reacting and doing—and following our unconscious patterns over and over. For some activities like getting up in the morning and getting dressed, mindlessness comes naturally (in fact, things like ironing and washing dishes can be very relaxing for some), but what about unhealthy habits? Then what do we do?
We put down the fork. We pause and think it through. And then we make a new choice.
The power is in the pause. Stepping back and taking the time to examine our thoughts, feelings, and intuition can help us active our mind, body, and spirit—leading us to decisions that are in alignment with who we really are. Plus, we tend to weigh more options and consider other choices when we stop and think things through before acting.
If we can stop and savor our meals, we can pause and ponder our lives.
Coach’s Challenge: This week, try putting down your fork during a meal with a friend or family member and take a moment to pause and breathe. Notice how it shifts your energy. How did it feel? How did it affect you? Them? Then apply this same principle to something in your life—a problem, issue, or situation. Step back, pause, and think about it for a moment. Did you come up with something new?
Perhaps you, too, will realize how something as simple as putting down your fork can help you develop a heightened awareness of your habits and the choices you’re making. After all, healthy habits are no mistake.
To Our Better Balance!
Michael Thomas Sunnarborg
Michael Thomas Sunnarborg is a professional speaker, best-selling author, and life transition coach. His passion is to help people reclaim their power of choice and find better balance in their work, relationships, and life. You can follow Michael on Facebook, Twitter, Huffington Post, and learn more at michaelsunnarborg.com
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