When I initially heard about the “Crunch Effect,” I immediately thought about the crunching of the Matzah on Pesach and its adverse effects on the digestive system. However, apparently, that’s not the only meaning.
Researchers at Colorado State University have discovered a simple solution for weight loss. They found that the noise your food makes while eating can significantly affect how much food you eat. The “Crunch Effect,” as they call it, suggests you’re likely to eat less if you’re more conscious of the sound your food makes while you’re eating. Therefore, watching a movie or listening to music while eating can mask eating sounds that keep you in check. The reason is that when we eat in a quiet setting, we hear the crunching or chewing of our food, and our brains register how much we actually eat. When there is noise, we are less aware of how much we eat and tend to overeat.
Being mindful of what we are doing is an essential Jewish value highlighted in this week’s Parsha – Vayikra relating the various korbanot (sacrifices) that were brought. A constant theme throughout the different korbanot that was sacrificed is that ‘machshava’ – mindfulness is critical. The multiple parts of the Avodah service must be done ‘lishmah’ with specific intent, and certain thoughts, such as ‘pigul’ (the Kohen thinking of slaughtering the animal outside the walls of the Temple), can even invalidate the korban. The former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Kook, writes that there was a heightened sense of awareness in the Bet HaMikdash that was supposed to spill over to day-to-day life outside of the Bet Hamikdash.
Mindfulness – knowing what we are doing rather than acting by rote, acting with full consciousness, is not only important for healthy eating. It is an essential aspect of many parts of life, both religious and mundane.
Perhaps this is why as we begin preparation for the festival of Pesach, the theme of mindfulness comes up consistently throughout the month of Nissan. Beginning with the blessing upon seeing the fresh budding of fruit trees and the detailed cleaning and searching for Chametz is the precursor for the ability to be mindful as we sit around the Seder table appreciating the miracles Hashem did for us when taking us out of Egypt so that we can be conscious in recognizing the blessings in our daily experiences.
Noise could be actual audible noise, or it could be the noise of all of the distractions that constantly bombard us. If we want to hear our family members talking to us, our chachamim teaching us, hear our inner voices, and even eat healthier, we must proactively block out the noise and listen mindfully.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay