Stay Hungry, and the First-Bite Rule.
The four of us waddled down the sidewalk with sweat beading down the valleys of our muscular backs. It was an early afternoon in mid-July, and we had just conquered a heavy squat workout. We were on our way to put some small All-You-Can-Eat sushi bar out of business, a fitting reward for couple hours of heaving heavy pig iron.
After what felt like days wandering through the desert, we had finally reached our oasis. Crisp air-conditioning hit our sweaty bodies like the splash of a waterfall, and we each took a breath of the fresh air. Human measuring chart, Big Mike, was first to be seated. We each followed suit and awaited the nourishment coming to our hungry muscles.
The first plate of sushi arrives: a variety of maki rolls, sensationally colored with pickled ginger pink, avocado and wasabi green, salmon red, all wrapped with the black sheen of dark seaweed. The waitress smiled and walked away. I salivated as I beheld the sight before me. My focus fixated on the first small roll, I slowly drew it to my face.
A taste explosion.
Soft rice, creamy avocado mashing into the tender fish, with a cool dash of wasabi and ginger that seemed to scurry up the back of my throat and jump into my nose. Once I had finished savoring the multifaceted burst of flavors, I indulgently swallowed the first bite, enjoying the comforting warmth of the food entering my hungry belly.
I continued eating but my focus and even enjoyment had waned. Attention in the group had shifted to discussing the tastes and textures of the various kinds of sushi rolls on our table.
Now, you should know the rule of all-you-can-eat sushi is that you must finish each whole plate of sushi before ordering another. And for any sushi left on your last plate, you must pay for on top of the initial charge. Additionally, let it be clear that these plates aren’t for teacups. In fact, if you were to round their edges upwards to create walls, I wouldn’t have known the difference between them and the troughs that feed the pigs and horses.
…Fast forward a few troughs, err plates, of sushi later…
We realize we are all nearing our consumption capacities. Eating has slowed considerably, and our levels of enjoyment have fallen from borderline sexual down to to labored obligation.
As the smallest of the bunch, I notice the others finishing up their last bites. Ten small maki rolls remain on my blanket-sized plate. They seem to be challenging me to open my wallet and pay for them in an act of shame.
Quitter I am not, I made the internal vow to finish, no matter how long it took.
I shoved the first of ten rolls into my mouth, letting it sit for a moment as I labored through a few breaths of air before slowly beginning to chew. Every bite was agony.
Where had my energy gone?
(Clearly into digesting the annual food consumption of the entire nation of Japan, I thought.)
My well-fed friends cheered me on to vanquish the remaining rolls. I hung my head, closed my eyes, and chewed until I could safely swallow without risking reviving our entire dinner.
1 down, 9 to go.
Still reeling from the first battle, I breathed heavily and looked at each one of my comrades. They were by my side, supporting the victory to come.
Once recovered, I picked up another maki roll to engage in the second battle. Each bite was getting progressively more challenging. Pain was mounting as the walls of my stomach stretched apart with inhuman volumes of rice and raw fish.
The pressure from within made it even harder to breathe. At this point, even shallow breaths were excruciating. I was thirsty but could not bear to waste precious room in my stomach with anything but sushi.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I eventually resorted to using little sips of water just to help the swallowing process.
9 down, 1 to go.
The final roll.
The end was in sight, and all I had to do was carefully chew and swallow this last roll.
The excitement and hungry anticipation was gone.
The taste explosion was gone (an explosion would have been the absolute last thing I wanted).
The nourishing comfort provided by each bite was gone.
And after what seemed like an eternity of labored chewing, the final roll of sushi was gone.
I had won.
I learned an important lesson that day, something I have come to know as…
“THE FIRST BITE RULE.”
The law which states that the sensational taste experience of any indulgence is maximized at the first bite, declining with each successive bite becoming less pleasurable thereafter.
Before the first bite of sushi, ripe with anticipation from the smells and change of scenery, I was hungry and excited! The first taste was a sensational experience, filled with positive emotions and reactions.
The second bite often flies under the radar, merely attempting to keep up with the outstanding precedent set by its first-born (by about a minute) older brother.
But one thing is certain, the final overstuffed bite is definitely not the positive experience you began with. It is a fairly linear relationship – after the first bite, every bite is just a little bit less enjoyable. The size of the bite is somewhat irrelevant, but let’s assume a single bite, that is, perhaps one quarter to one half of “a mouthful”.
Now, this is an important lesson for those who tend to run the risk of overindulging*.
*Which by definition implies you indulged (which is okay), and then took it too far (which is not).
Nutritionally speaking, many make the mistake of allowing their efforts towards improved nutrition, body composition, and healthy behaviors to become all-or-nothing affairs. This couldn’t be more detrimental to your long-term progress.
If you are amidst a fat loss program and making good progress, eating 90% perfectly according to plan, will a little forkful of fig newton really have the same effect on your progress as a inhaling a whole sleeve?
This is an example of the dose-dependent response of food and should make you question the effects of “having one bite” versus “running out of bites”.
Does a single fallen snowflake shut the whole city down?
Ask yourself honestly, was the last bite really as good as the first?
For many, including even the most iron-willed of dieting demigods, the first taste opens an unstoppable flood of deliciousness through the dam of devotion. In many cases of hyper-palatable foods, you might just be better off avoiding the first bite altogether, provided the stakes or your goals are high enough not to take the gamble, as with preparing for a physique competition for example.
Okay, so sometimes a lapse in judgment occurs, and you find yourself elbow deep into a bag of tortilla chips (because for some reason people equate excessive intakes of corn chips being “better for you” than excessive intakes of potato chips).
What do you do?
Well, a very common reaction is “well there’s only a little bit left, so I might as well finish them all,” in spite of the fact you’re not even truly enjoying them anymore. Here, it is important to remember that you always have control over the decisions you make, and in this case, it is important to make “the next right decision”.
Once your feeding frenzy has slowed enough to regain conscious thought, you can cut your losses and decide to not further the damage.
If you bump your car into a curb and have an easy (albeit inconvenient) estimated $200 bill of damage repairs, you wouldn’t just decide to roll the car off a bridge to make sure it is completely totaled, now would you?
So next time you find yourself indulging in some deliciousness, remember to savor the first bite. Politely push the plate away once the bites no longer taste quite like the first.
If it becomes a feeding frenzy, slow down at your first opportunity and cut your losses before going down with the ship.
And as for my feeding frenzy, I slowly shuffled with my friends to the train station before waddling home myself. The sun was setting, and I had no intention of eating again until long after it came back up again, if that would even be possible. I had learned a valuable lesson.
Next… Stay Hungry.