Inspired by Matt Cutts’s TED talk, “Try something new for 30 days,” I decided (and blogged the decision, of course) to “eat like a child” for 30 days. Before I tell you how that went, let me tell you that now, having actually completed a 30-day challenge, I’m hooked. Thirty days is just enough time to give something new an honest shot, but not so long that the commitment itself is scary. Nothing like, oh, say, committing to love fearlessly for a year. (What kind of insane person does that?)
I’m hooked, and I’m making “30-day challenges” a regular ZS category. I’ll let you know each time I begin one just in case you want to do it too. (It’s always more fun when you play along with me.)
Okay, back to the challenge at hand. You can read my original post to see why, but I had just two rules for myself during the 30 days. First, I could eat only when I was actually hungry, and second, I had to stop when I stopped being hungry (which is not the same as being full). Here’s what I learned during 30 days of eating like a child…
1. I don’t normally listen to my body very well.
I knew this of course, especially when it comes to food, but I was surprised how often I had an impulse to eat just because it was time, which, when you think about it, is a very grownup notion. We grownups have tight schedules to keep… schedules that aren’t all bad because they do allow for eating to be a communal experience. I learned that if you want (as I do) to eat with other people, it’s best not to wait until 11:30 to eat dinner just because that’s when you finally got hungry.
On the other hand, eating on autopilot, just because it’s time, totally ignores your body’s natural rhythms and desensitizes you to its true needs. Asking myself each time I reached for food, “Am I really hungry?” forced me out of my mindless routine and got me paying attention to myself in a way I hadn’t before. My body knew things my mind did not. We all carry around with us – in our bones and blood and organs and muscles – a powerful biological logic… which we ignore at our own peril.
2. Logic begets logic.
Once you start questioning your autopilot desire to eat, two things happen. First, you eat less; the answer to “Am I really hungry?” is sometimes no, plain and simple. Second, you start to question a whole shitload of other autopilot activities like drinking a third cup of coffee just because there’s still more coffee in the pot, or checking email for the fourth time of the morning, or spending your evening glued to a television or logged onto the internet.
Once you start noticing how many things you do on autopilot… you stop. You make choices, and while you may still decide to sit on the couch and watch the Olympics for three hours, it will be a conscious decision. There’s power in the pause.
3. Slowing down is a good idea.
The second rule of “eating like a child” was to stop eating when I was no longer hungry. News flash: you can’t do that if you eat at light speed. By the time you notice you’re not hungry, you’re often way beyond satiated. (And by “you,” I mean “me, the Speedy Gonzales/Tasmanian Devil of eating.) In order to feel when I stopped being hungry, I had to slow way down (by playing with my food, telling stories while I ate, stacking condiments and glassware). Besides being endlessly entertaining (just ask my family), I enjoyed my food more, and not once in 30 days did I feel uncomfortably full.
My 30 days are up now, but the habit of checking in with myself is established. I’d call that an enormous, unqualified success.
Onto the next challenge…
Don’t get too excited; It doesn’t mean I’m going to shut up. I’m reading Martha Beck’s book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World. In it, she talks about “wordlessness,” which is a state of pure presence (my definition, not hers). It’s when your chattering monkey mind quiets and what you’re left with is wholly experiential, free of the stories we tell ourselves, the worries about possible futures, the regrets about our pasts.
When we’re in Wordlessness, Beck says, we’re accessing our nonverbal minds, and here’s the really powerful part. While our verbal minds process information at about 40 bits per second, our nonverbal minds process at about 11 million bits per second.
Yeah. I want to go there.
There are many ways to get there, and Finding Your Way offers lots of exercises to try: Stillness (meditation), play (yoga, hiking, learning a new skill), surrender (complete acceptance of the moment you’re in). For the next 30 days I’ll be attempting Wordlessness a little bit every day.
I once wrote that Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now taught me how to calm the hell down. I think this is a little bit like that. I’ll let you know how it goes.
What about you? Did you attempt something for 30 days? How did it go? (By the way, I think there are lots of ways to measure success. If you try something and part way through decide, “holy shit, I’m miserable” and then stop… you learned something new about yourself and acted on the new information. Success!)
So, what would you like to try for 30 days?
Click here to see who won free registration to Connie Hozvicka’s Dirty Footprints Studio Art Journaling Workshop (which I’m so curious about, I think it might need to be a 30-day challenge). And thank you so much to everyone who joined in on that conversation. I was inspired by your answers!