The Jew And The Carrot

Chewdaism: Chew Your Food!

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share

Esquire Editor at Large and experiential journalist A.J. Jacobs embarked on a quest to improve his mind by reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. That resulted in the publication of his first book, “The Know-It-All” in 2005. Three years later came “The Year of Living Biblically” chronicling his attempt to raise his spiritual consciousness by growing a wild beard, riding the subway dressed like Moses, and following all the laws of the Bible in their literal sense. Now the 44-year-old Manhattanite has recounted how he tried to achieve bodily perfection in “Drop Dead Healthy” — published earlier this month.

To be sure, a healthy diet and good eating habits would figure into Jacobs’ latest experiment. The question facing the author over the course of his two year investigation, however, was: What exactly is the healthiest diet and what are the healthiest eating habits? Jacobs discovered that some people follow healthy eating habits with a dedication that is akin to religious devotion, like the macrobiotic diet or the author’s Aunt Marti and her raw food regimen. One of the lesser-known habits that Jacobs uncovered has a name that even sounds a lot like a religion very familiar to readers of The Forward. It’s called “Chewdaism.”

Jacobs explains that Chewdaism is a kind of food mindfulness. He discovered that it is “a surprisingly passionate movement.” The central tenet of Chewdaism, is that chewing your food 100 times (Jacobs aimed for a more doable 50) before swallowing it makes you healthier. “They say chewing will cure stomachaches, improve energy, clear the mind, cut down on gas, and strengthen the bones,” Jacobs writes. “Those claims are overblown. But chewing does offer two advantages: You can wring more nutrition out of your food. And more important, chewing makes you thinner, as it forces you to eat more slowly.”

An Internet search for “Chewdaism” yields mainly references to “Drop Dead Healthy.” However, Jacobs told The Jew and the Carrot that he can’t take credit for the term. It’s presumably a portmanteau of “chewing” and “Judaism” (with the latter emphasizing the zeal with which some people adhere to it), but there appears to be no direct connection to Judaism or its food laws.

Jacobs said he first saw the term on a website, though he can’t remember which at this point. Perhaps it was hipchicksmacrobiotic.com, where you can watch a bizarre and borderline nauseating “Converting to Chew-daism” chewing tutorial video and read about a global chew-a-thon. Jacobs wrote in his book that he found pro-chewing websites that quoted Gandhi (“chew your drink and drink your food”), offer pro-chewing poems (“nature will castigate those who don’t masticate”), and sell CD’s that chime every minute that tell you it’s time to swallow.

It seems that historically, we have been “a nation of underchewers,” as Jacobs put it in a piece he wrote for Food and Wine magazine. Chewdaism is simply a new way to refer to an old idea called “Fletcherism” or “Fletcherizing” that was first promulgated more than a century ago by an American named Horace Fletcher. Fletcher, known as “The Great Masticator,” was influential in the world of food and health fads in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A millionaire businessman and self-taught nutritionist, he spread his extreme chewing doctrine from 1895 until his death in 1919.

Chewdaism plays but one small part in Jacobs’ focus on stomach health and weight control (and the stomach, in turn, is only one of the many organs he focuses on in his book). Over the course of two years, he tried a wide range of diets and portion control techniques. Among them, he: did the Blue Print Cleanse; cut out sugar, but not coffee, alcohol or chocolate (at least not totally); considered both the Paleo (meat-only) diet and extreme calorie restriction, but opted instead for a vegetable-rich, modified Mediterranean diet consisting of a reasonable number of calories; tried eating only raw foods; learned to shop the perimeter of the grocery store; packed high-calorie snacks and treats in single-serving packages; and ate meals on his kids’ small plastic plates with a tiny shrimp fork that he puts down after each mouthful.

Now that Jacobs’ two-year-long quest for bodily perfection is over, he is still following some of things he learned about and tried out during that time. “I am still using small plates, still avoiding white foods like white flower, white sugar, and potatoes. I am still eating lots of protein for breakfast — egg whites and nuts — so that I don’t get hungry an hour later,” he told us. And in terms of extreme chewing, he’s a believer, but not a total convert. “Yes, I still do practice Chewdaism. But I’m more into reform Chewdaism,” he explained. “I found that 50 chews per mouthful was a bit absurd. It takes you a day and a half to eat a sandwich. But 12 to 15 chews is a good goal for me.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Drop Dead Healhty, Chewdaism, A.J. Jacobs

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.