Thursday, May 17, 2012


A troubling question that haunts many people is why does any one eat at all? For pleasure, health or longevity? While food connoisseurs swear by taste and flavor, nutritionists want the food to provide nutrients and business men want to make money by making people gorge on food! Another section of consumers want to eat less providing restricted calories with the assumption that it will allow them to live long. If all these diverse stake holders are allowed to argue out their case who could be the likely winner. Not sure, because all of them are well articulated groups capable of winning their case with convincing details. However the fact of life is different. Eating less than what body needs will result in losing weight ultimately leading to many complications while eating more will result in increased weight eventually leading to obesity. 

Watching people eat their food can be an interesting hobby. Some eat the food even before the food arrives on the table and the pace of eating can be frenetic. One wonders whether the food has even a chance to get masticated in the oral cavity which only can release fully the flavor and taste of the food eaten. Mastication also serves to predigest the food through the Ptylin enzyme system present in the saliva that operates in the mouth and helps to reduce the load in the Stomach and Gastrointestinal Tract once swallowed. Many others eat normally chewing the food before gulping it down the digestive system. A few people are very slow eaters taking enormous time to finish a meal and theoretically they should be the models to emulate by others. Slow eating helps to digest the food better, extract as much of the nutrients as possible and creates satiety preventing over eating. 

In some communities talking is not permitted once the eating starts while some others spend a couple of minutes sitting before the meal praying to God and thanking Him for providing the meal. Generally eating with bare hands finishes a meal faster than the ceremonial eating using knives and forks. What about use of sticks by Chinese and Oriental people for eating their meals? Those accustomed to such eating style can do a fast job of finishing the meal whereas beginners may take ages for the same. Watching of people in India eat their meals served to them is an interesting experience. In many public functions several courses are served on a certain pace and the diners are forced to sit before the plate till each item arrives before them!   

The new mantra that is being touted as the ultimate in controlling the body weight interestingly talks nothing about the composition of food but focuses on the "way" one eats! According to this "eating slowly and genuinely relishing each bite" can stop the obesity at its track! Buddhists are taken as examples for proving this theory and it appears the pupils are trained to meditate with food focusing the attention on the food and the sensation it provides before actually consuming them. Staring at the food consciously for 15-20 minutes, feeling it slowly, masticating leisurely appears to be a part of the eating regimen being followed by Buddhists. While this can be ignored if it was only a Buddhist tradition, what is interesting is the advocacy of such a practice by no less than the Harvard School of Public Health which is convinced that this is the best way to prevent over eating. They call it "mindful eating", probably to differentiate it from "mindless eating" or gorging mechanically without giving a chance to the body to react and indicate satiety. Besides preventing unnecessary over loading of the system with food not required by the body, this new "avatar" of eating practice is reported to be able to open the "third" eye. 

Mindful eating, according to the theory, is not akin to using special diets or about giving up anything to achieve the goal. It is supposed to be about experiencing food more intensely and the pleasure arising out of it. Probably eating a pizza slowly and mindfully may provide more pleasure besides giving the body a chance to say to stop eating further as satiety has set in or seek some other food with less calories! Of course the waste of food under this eating regime may be some what high but individually the health of the consumer is supposed to be safeguarded. 


1 comment:

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