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Eating Isn’t About Efficiency

I’ve been watching the new season of Shark Tank, and in a recent episode, one of the entrepreneurs presented an oatmeal ball that people could use for breakfast or as a snack without needing to do much preparation.

The Sharks got pretty excited about the opportunity, and not only because the oatmeal balls tasted good. They liked the fact that they could eat them “on the go” because, as Mark Cuban said, “I’m a driver-eater. It’s more efficient.”

First, please avoid eating and driving. As the CDC points out, each day in the United States, about 8 people die due to crashes involving a distracted driver. A lot of the time, the distraction is from texting but eating while driving is also a distraction.

Also, while I like efficiency in certain things, such as energy efficiency and using as few dishes as possible when cooking, eating isn’t about efficiency.

Eating and Efficiency Don’t Go Together

American culture is very focused on being “productive,” which seems to mean working as much as possible and fitting as much as you can into every moment. This may be efficient, but for some things, efficiency isn’t the goal.

New couples likely aren’t trying to make their time together efficient (whatever that would mean). Kids don’t appreciate it if your time with them is “efficient” in the sense of squeezing it in between two things so you’re always looking at your watch to see if it’s time to go.

Relationships, in general, are about the quality of your time together, enjoying each other’s company, taking the time to get to know one another – even if you could spend that time on other things.

And the way you interact with food is a relationship. It also deserves time and attention, rather than paying attention to something else instead.

Plus, it’s something ideally that you want to enjoy, not simply get through as quickly as you can.

This is also why we don’t all live on shakes and “meal replacements.” Those are fine now and again, but you wouldn’t want that to be the only thing you ever ate, even if you can ingest them more quickly than other foods.

Being Mindful When You Don’t Have Much Time

Sometimes, of course, you need to eat quickly, and you can’t be completely mindful while you eat. But eating that way all the time won’t help you have a healthy relationship with food.

When you don’t have a lot of time, you can take a few moments to be mindful. For example, before you start eating, you can take a couple of deep breaths and focus on the food. Notice how it looks and smells. Maybe think about who prepared it, or where the food came from.

Another approach is to make your first bite or two more mindful by noticing the taste and texture. Even if you can’t do that for your whole meal, if you can truly appreciate those initial tastes, you’ll feel more satisfied overall.

And even if you don’t have much time to eat, you can take a moment partway through to do a quick self-assessment to see if you’re still hungry. The challenge with this is that it can a while for those fullness signals to reach your brain, but it’s still a good habit and it reminds you to slow down.

Take Time to Eat

As much as possible, find ways to adjust your schedule so that you have time to eat. That way, instead of being tempted to squeeze in eating while doing something else – whether that’s driving, working, watching TV, reading, or anything else – you’ll be able to focus on eating.

If you do that, you’ll appreciate your food more, and when you get to your other tasks, you’ll also be able to focus on those without distraction.


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