Death by a Thousand Bites

I imagine you’ve heard the idiom “death by a thousand cuts”.  It’s used to explain the demise or termination of something as a result of numerous problems, each insignificant in itself.  But do you know where it came from?

It comes from the Chinese word lingchi.  It’s translated variously as the slow process, the slow death, or slow slicing.  It was used as a form of punishment and execution used in China from 900 B.C. until 1905.

At this point, you may be thinking, “Why are you writing about his this, Adam!?  This is cruel, nauseating, and has nothing to do with fitness and nutrition.” 

You’re right.  It is cruel.  It is nauseating.  But it does have something to do with fitness and nutrition.

Think about what you ate yesterday.  I’m relatively confident you can recall what you had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but what about your other meal?

What other meal?  The one (or more) you amassed, unthinkingly, throughout the day.  Typically, these meals aren’t intentional; they’re subconscious.  And herein lies the problem.

Do you ever walk into the breakroom at work and grab a donut or bagel that was brought in by a well-meaning (or sabotaging) co-worker?  Perhaps a co-worker or supervisor has a candy dish on her desk.

“Ha, Adam!  I work from home!”  Okay, . . .

When at home, do you “snack” while you prepare dinner?  As you’re preparing your kids’ plates, do you take a bite of whatever you’re serving them?  (“One for them, one for me.”)

When your kids leave out a box of crackers or cereal or a bag of chips or carrots, do you eat one (or more) before putting the bag away?

Do you eat food from other people’s plates, whether it’s your kid’s crust or your spouse’s fries?  (“I’ll only have a few . . . after I’ve crushed my own meal.”)

Do you do a “drive-by” of the fridge or pantry, grabbing something on your way through the kitchen?

Do you cut yourself a brownie, put it on your plate, then grab another brownie and eat it as you make your way to the table to eat “just the one”?  Or pizza?

The medical field calls these calories—ones consumed by snacking, taking food from family member’s plates, etc.—phantom calories.  I’ve a husband and wife duo as clients that refer to them as “sneaky bites”.

Again, so many of these “meals”, phantom calories, or “sneaky bites” are eaten subconsciously.  This isn’t an excuse to keep doing it.  This is an opportunity to bring awareness.  And awareness proceeds change.

If you were fully aware of the extra calories, a.k.a. food, you were eating, and put it in a bowl or on a plate, you might be unpleasantly surprised.  But I’m confident that if you were fully aware of the extra calories you were eating, you’d stop.

You didn’t become overweight, outta shape, and unhealthy all at once.  It was a slow process.  You got this way overtime.  It was “death” by a thousand bites.  (Now, if mindless snacking could only be outlawed.)

The next time you reach for the something extra, remember lingchi.  What seems small and relatively harmless, done enough times, can lead to great harm—to your waistline.