How to eat less and enjoy it more

Most of them say things like: “Oh my God, I’ve been eating corn chips for 20 years and I never ever realized I didn’t 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, it’s the bulk you are enjoying, not the taste of the raisin.

Distracted EatingAnd then, oh then, comes the moment everyone has been waiting for: eating the Hershey’s 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 we’re talking about.

So they smell the Hershey’s 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 can’t believe this, but it tastes waxy. I don’t like it, even though I’ve been eating these things for years.”

Another woman says, “I’ve eaten many bags of these over the years, but I’ve 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 don’t either. Right now I’m sure you’re thinking, There’s no way I am going to give up watching Grey’s Anatomy with my friend, ice cream. But could you be persuaded to try if I told you that there’s something better waiting for you if you give up the comfort of distracted eating?

For one thing, you’ll rediscover the pleasure of food itself. You’ll learn whether you actually like the food you’ve been eating in quantity for years. You may find that whatever food is in front of you might actually make you happy. (And that’s the only reason to pay attention to what’s on your plate — that it might help make you happy. That’s 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 don’t 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

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Reprinted with Permission of Hearst Communications, Inc. Originally Published: How to Eat Less and Enjoy It More