Too many of us believe that tucking into a large plate equals abundance. Many believe that feeling stuffed at the end of a meal means that our hunger has been satiated–because in America, a heaping plate makes for a good meal. Go to any Las Vegas buffet, grab a tray on the all-you-can eat line, and you’ll see a scramble for sub-par food: greasy chicken wings, stale bread, hardening rice, slop-like sauces,and muddy looking desserts. There’s no end to a meal at a Las Vegas buffet, just as there’s no end to any meal in America. And that’s the problem. Big plates and snacking have replaced sitting down to table, picking up a fork, knife, and spoon, and connecting with a friend over a tasty meal and conversation.
Back in the 1970s, lunch hour really meant taking an hour for lunch. Today you’re lucky if you get fifteen minutes. And if you do occasionally take a longer lunch, it’s rare to find a friend who can join you at table. So what do most Americans do for lunch? They grab something to go, or buy a microwavable item, and scarf down at the desk. An hour later, hungry for something other than food–say a conversation or a nap–the worker bee turns to sugar-loaded junk food. After all, the office kitchen is overflowing with a never-ending series of birthday cakes, chocolate chip cookies, and other celebration foods that no longer feel very celebratory. Boredom, loneliness, and fatigue join up for a temporary party in the office kitchen. It’s a sad state of affairs. So what should the post-millennial worker do to stave off obesity?
Take a hike. At lunch, take your 15 minutes for a walk. Take another 15 minutes to eat a salad–away from the desk–with a friend or colleague. Talk about something other than work. Laugh a little. And don’t head for the office kitchen when sugary snacks sweat on the counter. Say no to eating between meals. If you have the urge to get up from your desk, visit a friend. Don’t eat until you’re back home. And if you’re sitting in a restaurant that serves heaping plates the size of platters, save your wallet and share. And finally, remember: abundance isn’t always about how much you pack into your stomach.
Children know what they want and go after it with gusto. They see a game they want to play, and they begin playing. A gum ball machine floats a hundred tantalizing chewables, and the child begs for a quarter. Conversely, children know what they don’t want. They’re offered peas at dinnertime. They shun every green orb resting on their plates. As a child grows up, desires become less clear, a bit more mixed up in the middle. A cupcake becomes complicated. It’s delicious, tempting, the smell of the frosting gets some adults into an almost romantic mood. But then one remembers: that crafty little oval of fudge adds weight to the midsection and might strike a person dead if they’re diabetic.
The more we learn, the more complicated things become. For instance, you’d like to take a half hour walk twice a day. But there’s “no time” because your commute sucks up most of the morning, and won’t spit you out until almost 7PM. Taking a break from the desk isn’t an option. There are meetings, spreadsheets, calls to make, and email to scroll through. You can’t even take an hour for lunch. And yet, you have no choice. Your body needs you to attend to it. Lately, maybe, your back has been thrown out from sitting too much, for too long. Or, your LDL is skyrocketing and the idea of going on Statins for the rest of your life isn’t very palatable. Or maybe you can’t walk three steps without finding yourself out of breath. If so, this isn’t a sustainable life! And it isn’t acceptable.
The only way anyone changes his or her habits is through a very simple inner gift given at birth: determination. If you are determined, your commute will not deter you. If you have made the decision to cut out sugar, your fingers will not pluck up that cupcake. If you believe in yourself, you will walk at least ten minutes at lunchtime, eventually increasing that walk by five minutes every week. This, and only this, is how you will regain your full health. Draw upon your determination, and you will meet a new person in the mirror by the end of a year.