Why the Key to Excellence Comes from the Last Bite

Food is my family’s way of bonding. So much so, it’s ritual now that we eat together once a week — wherever we eat, it’ll be Chinese; whatever we order will be way too much. And however we eat, my parents will tell me to finish every last bite.

It could be the culture, it could be how they were brought up, or maybe, it’s simply their way of showing parental love…

But over the years, I’ve done exactly as they’ve taught — I ate the last bite of everything. A bite became two: that donut I only wanted a bite of, I finished; that slice of cheesecake, became the whole cake; that scoop of ice cream became the entire tub.

To no fault of my parents, I simply used their teachings as the excuse to self-justify every last bite. What went in, didn’t come out: the scale weighed twenty pounds more at first, then thirty, then forty. I knew I was gaining weight (hard not to when you look like you’re in the second trimester), but I denied it anyways — at least the amount I ate.

The hardest thing about the last bite is that it’s just a bite. It never feels like a lot, so one bite becomes two because two of anything bite-sized still seems small until pretty soon you’re putting away the whole thing. It’s why bite-sized marketing exists — because it works: Almond Joy pieces, Hershey’s drops, Jolly Rancher bites, Twizzlers bites, Resse’s minis

But the bite is everything. It is the distinction between one and an infinite number of bites. It’s our self-restraint practiced, our basis for self-respect: if we can’t follow through on what we promised ourselves, how do we trust ourselves? The bite doesn’t just determine our width, but our depth.

Aristotle once wrote: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

It’s always easier to take the last bite than not, especially when it becomes a habit. We don’t need to, in the same way it isn’t necessary to check emails every hour, but we do so anyways because habits become automatic.

Left unchecked, our habits become what we repeatedly do. A bite doesn’t seem like much, but its significance is as heavy as a rep at the gym, the brushstroke to a painting or words to an essay.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle

A thousand reps. A thousand strokes. A thousand words. Bit by bit, we become that of what we do. Do we want our own six-pack abs, or a thousand scrolls on someone else’s?

A bite doesn’t seem like much, but it’s everything. Because everything starts with one bite at a time.

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