I am forty pounds overweight. I like to think of myself as corpulent, verging on stout. The Mayo Clinic offers a less flattering description: their body mass index (BMI) calculator labels me as obese. Alas, it's true. My stomach sags over my belt. When I look at myself in the mirror, my features – formerly chiseled – appear as soft and puffy as rising dough.
The cause of my weight problem must be attributable to a disorder in one of three categories: character, environment, or mind-body interaction.
Lack of character is the time-honored explanation of obesity. As the Roman physician Galen (130 - 200 A.D.) claimed: "A great belly betrays a vulgar mind." Historic Judeo-Christian teachings consider obesity as fundamentally a moral failing, the consequence of the sins of sloth and gluttony.
An environment explanation of obesity would place the blame on my surroundings instead of my character deficiencies. I would be viewed as the victim of a stressful and sedentary occupation. Corporate America has forced me to sit and fret in my cubicle all day. Who could blame me for finding solace in food?
Although it would be easy to blame myself or my environment for my obesity, I think I have a more penetrating explanation. The root cause of my obesity is that decades of assiduous practice have made me much too efficient in the use of the fork. I wield a fork as skillfully as Zorro wielded a sword. Long before my digestive system has signaled a quenching of appetite, my swiftly darting fork has already taken me past the point of overeating. And when I eat too fast, I eat too much. Before I realize it, I sail past satiety, surge past surfeit, and then plunge past surplusage to the very gastro-elastic limits of engorgement
I must make my eating process less efficient. One might naively suppose that I could simply eat slower – space out my bites, chew longer, that sort of thing. Unfortunately, the amount of concentration required for this solution is too great; my forksmanship has grown so advanced and automatic that the fork seems to have a mind of its own.
I considered acquiring miniature eating utensils. Reduction of fork capacity would result in reduction of food ingest per unit time. Alternatively, I could use a regular size knife and fork but cut my food into tiny pieces that I would then suck up with a straw. From a topological perspective, this would be analogous to limiting food ingest by reducing the size of my mouth.
While these restrictive approaches have their functional merits, they would invite unwelcome attention to my table manners at a restaurant. And imagine the poor impression I would make if I ever dined out with a prospective sweetheart!
Finally I arrived at a workable solution – chopsticks.
My chopstick technique is clumsy. If I don't pay careful attention, the chopsticks cross and flick food onto my lap. Chopsticks would be just the thing to help me throttle back my eating speed.
To test my solution, I have eaten Asian food every night this week (Chinese on Monday, Malaysian on Tuesday, and Vietnamese today). Chopsticks have worked like a charm. By the time I have finished chasing the last tablespoon of rice around the bottom of my bowl, my stomach is declaring a timely feeling of fullness.
Now all I need is a sweetheart that likes Asian food.