I am very carefully typing the nickname of Horace Fletcher. Mr. Fletcher lived during the Victorian Era and was a health food enthusiast who believed that one of the best ways to experience healthier eating was to take more time chewing the food that we ate.
He was nicknamed “The Great Masticator.” And now almost a century after his death, that we are discovering reasons to believe Mr. Fletcher may have been quite right.
Studies that are being researched through the Harvard School of Medicine are providing data that not only suggests why learning to become more mindful and focused on the way we eat; not only the foods that we eat but the actual method in which we eat including what we devote our attention to as we eat and what we think about when we consume our meals.
Chewing food carefully and slowly as Horace Fletcher advocated more than a hundred years ago, provides us with a few benefits.
• The most obvious is that we give our body the time it needs to digest what we eat and to process the feeling of having had enough, satiation. Once we know that we’ve had enough, we are likely to avoid overeating.
• By breaking food down into smaller pieces, which is what happens the more we chew our food, we give our digestion system an easier job since the particles of food we are digesting are smaller. This puts less strain on our system of digestion and researchers are discovering this is a healthier way to eat.
It seems Horace Fletcher’s suggestion of chewing our food more also would provide us with more time to think…and now we are just tapping the surface with the research that is coming out in favor of practicing mindful eating as a method for weight-loss and eating disorders that may be more helpful than most extreme and costly methods.
I believe over-eating is in an entirely different category than most other addictions such as alcohol or narcotics or cigarette smoking. What makes it different is the word (and the meaning and behavior associated with the word “over” when we speak of over-eating.)
I remember the day the doctor told my father he needed to quit smoking. My father was a military man and he had an inner strength I haven’t seen very often in my life. He took the pack of Winston 100s out of his shirt pocket, placed them in the glove compartment in his car and told me he would never touch them again. Those same cigarettes were in the glove compartment of his car the day he died.
Over-eating is an entirely different experience. We still need to eat and sit down to meals and be around food. Nothing is intended to stop other than the “over-doing” part of the eating. It is as if we are suddenly and remarkably supposed to be able to exhibit a level of control that we have not successfully been able to find.
The idea of mindfully eating is something I will write about in the near future, explaining more about what it is and how it creates a healthier and calmer approach to eating, turning the feeling and attitude of desperation or anxiety that food produces for people with eating issues into a sense of serenity and a feeling of more self-control and balance, enabling more healthful eating habits to emerge.
The other thing mindful eating permits is moderation and a gradual, slow and achievable step-by-step schedule to improving eating habits and behaviors. By starting with just one day a week or one meal every other day or some other schedule that works best for you, mindful eating can be started slowly in an experimental way where you can see what works best for your individual needs.
The more we think about what we do, the more we can demonstrate conscious effort and energy toward it and the more focused and directed our energy and efforts are, the better we get at it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!