What Eating by Myself Without Watching Television Taught Me
I hate to eat by myself.
I would rather starve if I could than eat by myself. Thankfully, I couldn’t. So I found a way around the problem. For the past 10 years or so, I would always watch/listen to something while I ate whenever I had to eat by myself.
Then it occurred to me last week, that for the past 10 years I had barely paid any attention to my food when I ate. I was either with someone and chatting with them, or I was watching/listening to something. So I asked myself, was that what my life would be now, never having a conscious experience of food?
Sometimes the desire to experience new things is all we need to change our old ways.
So, for the past week, I forced myself to put away my electronics whenever I ate alone, at least for breakfast. Here’re the things I noticed. If you’re also someone who habitually distracts yourself when you eat alone, I hope my experience can help you make a better-informed decision of whether you want to continue doing it.
- I do not miss the entertainment, at all. Let’s face it, the stuff I use to distract myself is either a show (Friends) or an anime (Detective Conan) that I’ve watched a thousand times (literally), or it’s a news podcast (which can be even more depressing). I do not miss the distractions at all. I don’t even notice they’re missing. I probably never paid any real attention to them in the first place.
- Eating distraction-free may or may not have helped with my digestion. They (lifestyle magazine editors, mindfulness teachers, doctors, yoga gurus, celebrities, pop scientists) all say that being mindful of what you’re eating helps your body absorb the food better. I think that’s true. I also noticed that because I tend to avoid the experience of eating by myself, I’ve been eating about three times faster than usual. Which is probably not good for digestion.
- Good food tastes better; not-so-good food tastes horrible. Having to pay attention to what you’re eating does make your taste buds more sensitive; that I can attest to. I’ve also gotten more picky about what I eat, because I can’t distract myself from it anymore.
- I still get distracted. I noticed that I can’t focus on my food even if I cut the entertainment, because my mind is like a claustrophobic movie theater. It’s a lot easier to shut down your phone than it is to shut up your random thoughts. Without my phone, at least I can be aware of the jibber-jabber in my head, which, again, may or may not have been a good thing.
- I have more things to text my friends about. This morning I got so excited about the Chang Fen (a Chinese rice noodle shaped like lasagna) I was eating that I texted my friend a 5-paragraph essay describing in detail all the things that made it delicious.
Bottom line: would I continue doing it?
In the spirit of experimentation (because what else is life good for), sure.
Jokes aside, I definitely appreciate the fact that I can be a little more conscious, a little more aware of what I’m doing, for 20 more minutes every day. If I eat while watching TV, I likely don’t remember much about what I’ve eaten or what I’ve watched. Without the distractions, I can remember a little better about the food on my plate and the things I think about.
And isn’t that what life ultimately becomes, things that we remember? If we’re not aware, not remembering, life may as well have never happend at all.
This is part of a series of writings called “10 Days of Remembering.” It is a series of reflective prompts: a question, an idea, a decision, a realization … The things that challenge and change me that I want to remember my days by. I hope this series of prompts can be useful to you as you reflect on your own understanding and experience.