The 21st Century marked the advent of mindful living – eating and drinking, home decor, working, parenting, sleeping, sports etc. Explained as an attitude or mental state in which you focus on the meaning and awareness of the moment, mindfulness has been advocated and applied by many across various areas of living.
Being mindful can help you develop the necessary skills to manage stress, depression, worries, anxiety, sleep issues and other mental health issues, physical health and even chronic pain. Mindfulness is also now being applied to one’s eating behaviours.
Eating in a mindful manner means paying close attention to your food with all your senses, noticing your emotional and physical feedback that happen throughout your dining experience. It also helps people to exercise good judgment when it comes to deciding what to eat and how to eat, being intentional in all your food and ingredient choices as compared to giving in to your primal impulses to go for foods that are not necessarily good for you.
While mindful eating was not designed particularly for weight loss but for general well-being, by emphasising on wholesome eating, it can be helpful for those who just cannot commit to specific diets. You can reduce your instances of emotional eating in which your hunger and cravings are driven by your emotional state (the more intense the emotion, the more you tend to eat), and spur yourself to divide your daily meals into smaller portions and consume fewer calories.
Chew On This
Horace Fletcher, an American health food enthusiast nicknamed “The Great Masticator” who lived during the Victorian era, believed that the emotions experienced while dining plays a significant role in the choice of food. He also advised that people chew food thirty-two times so as to improve your overall well-being.
Many of his advice, as published in a 1913 book, have guided the mindful eating movement today.
One, wait for an appetite that is earned and true, meaning your hunger is induced by time and activity and that it is not because you are bored or impulsive. This is especially important for those with a snacking habit. Most times, snacks are short-lived pleasures that usually add little good, if any at all, to your diet.
Two, choose from foods available to you that are most appealing to the current appetite and prioritise by your appetite, i.e. if you are more thirsty than hungry, pick foods that are more like to satisfy that first. By prioritising what your appetite needs, you can prevent yourself from eating more than what you really want.
Three, chew your food until all the good flavours are out in the mouth and only swallow when the food is so mashed up it goes down by itself. This helps to prolong the duration of pleasant feelings and maximise the calorie-to-enjoyment ratio.
Four, enjoy the flavours thoroughly and disallow any negative emotions from diverting your attention from the food. Negative emotions can cause you to turn to more eating so as to trigger more dopamine, the reward hormone. This is why some people suffering from depression, heartbreak and stress turn to binge eating in search of more dopamine to suppress moodiness.
Five, wait and enjoy what your appetite approves, which can add to your feeling satiety rather than keep eating and trying to reach the same level of satisfaction. Often times, we overeat before our feelings of satiety, which takes time to be felt, kicks in.
Fletcher also believed that comfort eating can cause indigestion, so he advised his book’s audience to take a pause and use the moment to take stock of their emotions and feeling before they begin choosing what food to eat as compared to making decisions by raw instincts. He also thought that by being aware of the food that you are eating, it can create good emotions, experience and enjoyment that could alter your appetite and preferences.
The Resurgence Of Mindful Eating
So popular and mind-sobering was Fletcher’s book that his approach to eating became known as “Fletcherism”. Some well-known adopters of Fletcherism were people like Theodore Roosevelt (the 26th President of the United States), Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes) and Mark Twain (author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn novels). The founder of Kellogg’s cereal John Harvey Kellogg also used the principles of Fletcherism in his cereals.
Other areas Fletcherism was implemented in were schools, prisons and the military
However, the adoption of the movement went into decline after Fletcher died, and the awareness gave way to unhealthy and hedonistic ways of life.
Today, as mindful living is popularised as the middle ground between the hedonistic and ascetic lifestyles, mindful eating, as thus Fletcherism, is once again at the forefront of modern wellness.
Researchers have tested and discovered that chewing your food more can help you reduce the amount of food you eat by causing your body to release less of the appetite hormone, ghrelin, thereby helping you to be more in control of your intake and food choices.
Today, most people are too concerned with what to eat and what not to eat, making achieving wellness a kind of complicated mathematical problem sum. Perhaps it’s time we relax and enjoy wholesome foods the way they were created to; maybe that is just what our weight-loss strategies need.