Mindful Eating


Mindful Eating

As you will read elsewhere, I am back after an extended absence and I am not only in a new place, but doing new things.

My first outside project is obesity treatment, with a generous share of my methods and philosophy to help those of you who want to lose weight.

My own weight loss was quite dramatic — approx 200 lbs — and I’ve kept the weight off for about 5 years now. How did I do it — drugs? surgery? diet and exercise?

No — I used some really plain old common sense and research supplementation.  Together with the proper mindset, this is what will give anyone the longest lasting and safest weight loss possible.

I’m sharing with you a portion of a new book that I will publish soon.  Here is a taste, as we say in the dieting business:


Mindful eating is keeping your mind on what you eat.  If this is done, and all of the external personal and societal messages effectively removed, people do not seem to overeat at all.  They enjoy food and life, and eat when they are hungry, avoiding or storing food when they are not. Keeping your mind on what you eat ought to be a joy and not a duty.  It is a piece of eternal truth, an absolute truism of human nature.

The first glimpse of this reality is the ritual of saying grace or a blessing or something; of ancient Biblical type worship associated with food.  If it is a sacred creation, the necessary stuff to fuel the human body which would appear to be the pinnacle of creation, it is absolutely impossible to avoid paying attention to it. Food ennobled is food made precious and important.

One crucial, very modern reference to this way of thinking is the description of the monastic way of life in the Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. In this community, people taste and savor their food and obesity in unknown.  No reference to science here; it sounds like an impossible bit of fable to a modern reader.

Perhaps the earliest scientific investigation of our time was the work of Horace Fletcher in the late 19th century.  He questioned something everyone else in civilization had already learned to take for granted; the putting on of weight with age.  He recommended chewing food until it seemed to dissolve down in swallowing all by itself.  Since this method may have taken something close to an hour for someone to devour a fibrous vegetable such as, for example, a scallion, he earned the nickname of “The Great Masticator.”  His only written work is available online in its entirety.  He was sixty when he pitted his strength against young Yale University athletes.

He had followers in his day, but the controversy remains, for “pro” and “con” websites are easy to find.  I know of only one modern scientific study, indexed within the national Library of Medicine as “Fletcherism Revisited,” in which his method of eating was subjected to modern research efforts.  It appears to be an effective approach to weight loss. The only obstacle I can see to it is, frankly, that it takes time.  Most of us who have not yet become aware of what mindful eating means are doing a fair amount of our eating with television, or eating the leftovers of our children’s plates to avoid wasting food.  As soon as these other agendas supercede our abilities to taste and to enjoy food, to feel hunger and satiety, we are doing mindless eating.  No pleasure in eating, surely.

I am now certain that adopting such habits is what keeps people overweight.

Mention must be made of one modern seminar-giver and book author, Bob Schwarz, who gave seminars in the San Francisco area in the 80’s.  He basically uses a series of questionnaires to help people determine and filter their own internalized messages of familial and societal origin that keep them on the destructive diet Merry-Go-Round.  To his credit, in the conclusion of his book, he free acknowledges his great debt to Horace Fletcher.

Neither Schwarz nor Fletcher was any kind of an academician, as far as I can figure.  Neither jaded by scientific in a field that seems to me to have contributed all too little to human health, for any regimen is not designed to last forever.  Any nutritional instructions will be of no benefit when internalized psychological messages are victorious, as they will always be. Always.

Mindful eating includes the enjoyment of taste.  Getting rid of psychological impediments is important.  Do make sure that you have the physiological equipment to enjoy food. First, is the ability to chew and to enjoy the texture of food.  This means good dental health.  I myself had some dental problems for quite a while, but started enjoying the taste and texture of food beyond words when I got my dental implants.

I have seen it all, from anorexia to all kinds of self-imposed food restrictions.  I am not talking cosmetic dentistry here, although that can be a delightful side effect.  I am talking about functional chewing which means an increased ability to savor and enjoy foods. The dental profession absolutely does not pay me to say this.  This is just fact. Tasting food is a gift, too.  I have seen people lose interest in food entirely because of distorted taste.  If you have a medical condition that is affecting your ability to taste foods, get it managed as best you can.

Perhaps the most common (and well known) one is smoking.  Although I rarely hear this as a reason for quitting, I do hear those who have quit loving food tastes more.  A lot of people tell me there is supposed to be a weight gain when smoking stops, but any gain seems insignificant related to the many health benefits. To really taste foods, it takes more than just taste buds and the related nervous system.  It takes smell.  Taste also seems to improve with the treatment of respiratory conditions.  Things like sinusitis, in particular.

My own tastes have changed considerably over the years.  I remember when I had medical problems and did a lot of mindless eating; I was a sucker for strong and hot spices.  I used cayenne pepper beyond description.  Now, I can barely tolerate the smallest amount of it.  I think that people have forgotten that spices once were used to cover the taste of substandard meats.  I once remember an older Mexican gentleman who told me at a bus stop in Palm Springs that the Mexicans where he came from used strong spices so that you would not taste if the meat had parasites.  Ugh! Thank heavens for United States public health regulations.  Savor the tastes of fruits and vegetables and meat and fish.  Savor the taste of whatever you can get.  Try eating things you have not tried yet.

In my family of origin, the spirit of experimentation with food was pretty much non-existent.  Me, I always saw the Jewish religious dietary laws as an early attempt at the equivalent of public health regulation, and believed with the more liberal members of my faith that spiritual beliefs ought not to be focused on stomach contents.  Still, I respect those who cling to religious tradition.  I would nevertheless advise anybody to try any new taste that they possibly can.  After all, you cannot know if you like a taste or not until you try it.  You may be depriving yourself of a great pleasure by refusing to try.

We live in a world where we have enough food.  We can and should do what we can to help those who cannot.  But it is abundantly clear that overeating will not help those people.  Valuing food, eating for your own pleasure, eating diversity of the wealth of foods available on this earth with unprecedently availability of fresh products can only be good.

With slow eating comes the possibility of feeling satiety.  Not like an outside law-enforcement dictum, but a sense of satisfaction from within.

This is part of the gift of mindful eating.


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