Fun with Fletcherizing! Or, Eating Mindfully Throughout the Holiday Season
December 06, 2012
Christmas is nearly here again; it’s the time of year when candy and cookies abound at home and in the workplace, and calorie-laden treats and alcoholic drinks beckon seductively from tables at parties. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of overindulging throughout the holiday season, yet so tough to put a stop to it once the party’s over.
As someone who loves to bake (and eat), and who will use any excuse to checkout yet another chocolate cookbook, I invariably suffer the results of self-indulgence throughout the holidays. However, I’ve learned to temper the ill-effects of my inevitable seasonal gluttony by utilizing two simple expedients: mindful eating and exercise. In this month’s blog, I will cover the subject of mindful eating. As I’m something of a workout fiend, February’s blog will focus on some of the DVD workouts I’ve used and found helpful (and also some that really weren’t in the least). I will suggest some different styles of exercise and offer lots of biased, non-professional critiques of some of the workouts I’ve tried.
So here is the subject of December’s blog: mindful eating (which is also archaically known by the term "Fletcherizing"). As you may be aware, this is the practice of chewing each bite of food thoroughly, until it is in near-liquid form, before swallowing. Some studies suggest that it assists in weight loss and better, more efficient digestion of food. Since it takes up to twenty minutes for our stomachs to send the "I’m full!" message to our brains, eating slowly and deliberately allows us to experience a feeling of fullness before taking in an appalling amount of food. In addition, it appears that engaging in "Fletcherizing" may lower the incidence of colon cancer and other digestive maladies.
When a term such as "mindfulness" is mentioned, I tend to think automatically of the practice of Zen Buddhism. However, one of the most famously strident proponents of mindful eating was an American by the name of Horace Fletcher—a (then) well-known dietician of the early 20th century, and a contemporary of John Harvey Kellogg (notable nutritionist and person of dubious sanity). Fletcher (who earned the excellent nickname of “the Great Masticator”) was a millionaire businessman who stomped all over the globe lecturing and promoting his particular brand of health. He firmly believed in chewing (at a bare minimum) thirty-two times per mouthful, waiting until "good and hungry" before eating, and never eating when sad or angry. "Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate," he is credited with saying. I imagine he said it often and with great self-satisfaction (he looked like the sort).
Though mindful eating is a "simple" practice, it isn’t an easy thing to do in a crowded or hurried atmosphere, as it requires a certain amount of concentration. As busy Americans, our natural impulse is to bolt our meal and move on to the next activity of the day. To change a habit so deeply ingrained in most of us takes time, strong intention, and lots of reminders, along with dogged practice. I find it’s much easier to eat mindfully either in solitude or with only a couple of companions present. Since neither situation occurs with much frequency, I sometimes find it helpful to actually write myself a little note (along the lines of ‘CHEW YOUR FOOD!’) and take it to the dinner table with me (as lame as that may sound). If practiced with the proper degree of tenacity, this is a habit that will stick with you. For those of you interested in learning more, there is much interesting (and entertaining) discussion of Horace Fletcher and of this helpful dietary tip available on the Internet.
*Author’s note: The information contained in this blog is in no way intended as medical advice. For weight loss concerns or nutritional advice, see your doctor.
**If you would like to read historical accounts on Fletcher and his technique from his contemporaries, our database American Periodicals Series Online 1740-1900 is a great resource.
Lone Jack Branch
Tags: Horace Fletcher