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Mindful Eating Gives You Power Over Food

The obesity epidemic is leaving a trail of illness and death in its wake. People are looking for ways to combat expanding waistlines and one novel approach is “mindful eating.” CNN reports that mindful eating is based on the ancient practice of mindfulness. The basic premise is that you should not deal with daily tasks such as eating by rote. Instead, you are encouraged to carefully ponder situations and take your body’s signals into account.

The practice has its roots in Buddhist teachings. Just as there are forms of meditation that involve sitting, standing or walking in silence, many Buddhist teachers encourage their students to meditate while eating. It's about experiencing food more intensely — especially the pleasure of it.

Researchers have found that increasing the number of chews before swallowing reduced food consumption in adults of all body sizes. An additional finding was that normal-weight people tend to chew more slowly in general than those who are overweight or obese.

Could reducing overeating really be this simple? Well, when you look at the complete picture, it does make sense. When you eat quickly, your body doesn't have the time to go through its natural signaling process, which involves a variety of hormones and feedback loops between your gut and your brain. Hormones that tell you when you've had adequate food are produced while you're eating, but it takes a bit of time for this to occur. If you eat too quickly, you can easily overeat before your body has a chance to signal that you've had enough.

As a culture, we chew less now than we used to because we're eating fewer whole foods and raw foods. If you consume a whole foods diet and eliminate processed foods, you naturally have to do more of the processing yourself (e.g., chewing).
In terms of optimal number of chews, recommendations are all over the board. Most studies seem to top out at 40 chews per bite. However, Horace Fletcher, aka "The Great Masticator" and founder of the chewing movement (if you can call it that), preached 100 chews per bite. This may be excessive for most people, but there's something to be said for taking your time, and chewing as long as you're comfortably able.
 
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