Multitasking comes easy to busy people. But it comes at too big a price. The trouble with multitasking is that we can’t give our full attention to any of the tasks that we do simultaneously.
The big trouble comes when we think of eating and drinking as a task to get finished as soon as we can. When we think that way, we eat and drink when we work at the computer, read the newspaper, or chat with our family. We think about our nourishment with only half of our mind or less.
I probably have been more guilty of eating and drinking with my mind on other things than most of you. I lead a busy life, and that’s not because I have to but because I find so much to enjoy in my life.
I love sharing my experience and what I know about diabetes with you, and I love to get out in nature: to travel and to hike for my exercise, to take photographs of the beauty I find there, and for the solitude. When relaxing at home I love to read and to follow up on all the questions that reading raises by checking out what Wikipedia and other websites can tell me. All of this as well as all of the mundane tasks of life keep me busy.
When I tried to save time by doubling up on my joyful activities, I nevertheless found less joy, not more. I found that I could drink a whole cup of tea or eat an entire breakfast without being aware of what it tasted like. I probably also ate too fast, although I can’t say for sure, because I wasn’t paying attention. I did, however, find myself cutting up another bite of food and shoving it in my mouth before I had finished the previous bite.
As a person who has struggled with my diabetes since 1994, when a doctor told me I had it, I have known that managing my weight was a key to managing my diabetes. But probably because I was barely conscious of what I was eating and drinking, I found that managing my weight didn’t come easy for me.
This changed when I read a new book by Thich Nhat Hanh, Work: How to Find Joy and Meaning in Each Hour of the Day. Near the end of this short book he wrote these words that led me away from the thickets of multitasking:
“Recognize that multitasking means you’re never fully present for any one thing. Do one thing at a time and give it your full attention. Practice mono-tasking!”
While intellectually I had known that I wasn’t living fully in the present when I was multi-tasking, these words somehow brought the message into my heart. I hope that they will have the same effect on some of you.
Not only am I more present in my life now but I have also found that specifically by being aware of the food that I eat as I eat it I don’t think about food so much at other times. This makes managing my weight much easier.
Be. Here. Now.
HealthCentral published an earlier version of this article.