When I began my career as a litigation (jury) consultant many years ago, one of the first pieces of advice a more experienced colleague told me was “eat defensively,” meaning eat when there is food to be eaten because it may be the only opportunity that presents itself. When I am traveling far and wide doing my job, I have learned to follow this advice and eat when I can, even if it is not a meal time or I am not particularly hungry. I may think the airplane is on schedule, arriving in plenty of time for me to eat my next meal before I have to hurry to my destination to work, but all too often, there is something that delays a flight, causing me to miss the much anticipated meal. I usually take water and snacks, just in case I can’t stop long enough to have a proper meal. It is a strange world where I live, and work, and one that has required me to learn to adapt, quickly, to changes in my environment. These changes often involve operating outside my comfort zone, including the necessity of eating alone in a nice restaurant, eating a type of food I usually don’t prefer because there is nothing else available, and eating defensively. But, this is the life I have chosen, and defensive eating goes along with the territory.
Today is one of those eating defensively days for me. I’m attending a conference, writing in the morning before the session which starts at 1:00 p.m. With a specific, 1:00 p.m., start time, clearly lunch has to be early and over with to get to the meeting. And, I am in a “strange” town. Not strange really, but one I’ve never been to, so foraging for food takes a bit more efforts. Sure there is hotel food, but I get enough of that so I try to avoid it when I can. And, eating defensively in this context involves adjusting “normal” eating times as well as finding new locations in “strange” cities. Someone once told me “you shouldn’t eat Chinese food in strange cities.” This happened soon after I returned to the USA following a year of graduate school in Australia after which I traveled to New Zealand, Fiji, England, Scotland, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium. I was in lots of strange cities and ate lots of Chinese and other foods while in those cities. Sometimes it seems odd that we, as living beings, spend so much time eating, but we do. And we have to be mindful that our bodies will remind us that it is time to eat. Planning ahead and working around the constraints imposed by time and place factors is critical to ensuring that we stay sharp and can work, or travel, or play effectively.