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Most of them say things like: Oh my God, Ive been eating corn chips for 20 years and I never ever realized I didnt like them. Or Wow! What I really want is the salt. The rest tastes like cardboard. We move on to the raisins, but we eat only one. People say that they usually eat a hundred of them. A box of them. Several handfuls of them. But if you are eating raisins by the handful, how do you know when you have had enough? How do you even know what a raisin tastes like if you are eating 90 of them at once? At this point, its the bulk you are enjoying, not the taste of the raisin.
And then, oh then, comes the moment everyone has been waiting for: eating the Hersheys Kiss. They unwrap it. Suspense builds. I ask how many of them are certain they are going to like it. Duh, they say, this is chocolate were talking about.
So they smell the Hersheys Kiss and then they pop it in their mouths and chew for a minute or two. This is a radical act, taking time with a piece of chocolate. Usually the one in our mouths is just a prelude to the next one and the next.
One woman says, I cant believe this, but it tastes waxy. I dont like it, even though Ive been eating these things for years.
Another woman says, Ive eaten many bags of these over the years, but Ive never tasted just one. And when I taste one, I like it, and one is actually enough.
Then we talk about translating this exercise into real life, and all at once everyone stops liking me. No one really wants to abandon her old habits. You probably dont either. Right now Im sure youre thinking, Theres no way I am going to give up watching Greys Anatomy with my friend, ice cream. But could you be persuaded to try if I told you that theres something better waiting for you if you give up the comfort of distracted eating?
For one thing, youll rediscover the pleasure of food itself. Youll learn whether you actually like the food youve been eating in quantity for years. You may find that whatever food is in front of you might actually make you happy. (And thats the only reason to pay attention to whats on your plate that it might help make you happy. Thats all.)
When we take time with food, it has a chance to give something back the flavor, the sensual feeling, a satisfaction we can savor. But if we are busy doing something else, we miss the whole experience. It is like being glued to your laptop while the sexiest story ever told is unfolding right before you on TV.
The truth is, you dont have to choose between watching Pride and Prejudice and eating. You can have both. You can watch and then you can eat. That gives you two chances for pleasure, not just one.
Why not act on your own behalf? Why not live as if you deserve all the pleasure? Because and of this I am certain you do.
Geneen Roth is an international teacher, speaker, and writer of best-selling books on emotional eating. You can visit her at geneenroth.com.