The Pleasures Of Simple Fare
( Originally Published 1916 )
When a physician says " You must diet " there is no telling how his patient will interpret the command. To a great many, it would mean only a decrease in food, but such an interpretation is a mistake. To diet is to control one's eating. It may signify either an in-crease or decrease of food. It may signify, and generally does, a change in quality as much as in quantity. When a diet is arranged with judgment and properly managed, it consists of a careful and wise selection of such foods as are suitable in every way to the environmental and health requirements of the individual.
This is not a " killjoy " procedure any more than is the substitution of intelligence for chance, or of efficiency for haphazard management in any of life's affairs. The improvement in one's health and the general feeling of well-being does not make the appetite less keen. It is rather the re-verse which is true. Hunger is the best sauce.
Control of diet results in Weight Control. It often prevents ill-health, favoring the production of strength, vigor, and efficiency. On the other hand, appetite unlicensed, diet unselected, are responsible, in greater or less degree, for under-nutrition or overweight, ulcer of the stomach, an aemia, Bright's disease, or other forms of ill-health.
Therefore common opinion is entirely wrong in its view that there is no pleasure in life when one is not allowed to eat without restriction either as to quantity or quality of food. This idea is fallacious for two very good reasons. One is that appeasing appetite without restraint means for many ill-health, pain, suffering, and shortened life. The other is that habits of eating are easily formed and when an intelligently selected diet is followed for a short time the appetite is adjusted to the regimen, the taste for some articles being lost or diminished, while that for others is increased. The discomfort and unhappiness associated with a change in diet are temporary; they are confined to the short time when the adopted diet is new.
Is the man whose life is endangered by high blood pressure or embarrassed heart action less happy after he has regained his health through the control of diet? Certainly not. His improvement would be sufficient compensation, even if dieting remained a hardship; but it does not, for with the habit once fixed the pleasure of eating is as great, if not greater, when the diet is suited to one's needs than otherwise. I believe that when knowledge of food values is more widely diffused we will not be so prone to acquire wrong habits of eating, and the careful selection of diet will be taken as a matter of course. Children will be raised on a correct diet, and then habit and appetite may be more safely followed.
Fortunate is the man whose ill-health is due to dietetic errors, especially when the truth is discovered early, for then it can be easily remedied. Science has given the remedy which, especially in the class of cases discussed in this book, is certain to work a cure.
Indeed he is a very lucky man who discovers that faulty diet has undermined his health before it is too late for remedy, or before it is complicated by some other disease. Pneumonia might be early fatal in a patient with fatty heart, but fatty heart occurring alone is easily cured, and pneumonia by itself less dangerous. Again, a man with such a heart may suddenly find that he requires an operation for appendicitis. The surgeon cannot be blamed if after the operation the trite announcement is made: " Operation successful, but the patient died."
There is no question as to the choice of alternatives between dietetic license with extremely bad health on the one hand, and moderation in eating with good health on the other. However, the relation between moderate dietetic sins and mild degrees of ill-health is not so clear. It does not stand out so that " he who runs may read." Such ill-health is rather insidious in its development. The individual may not realize that he is increasing his blood pressure just a few counts above the healthful range. He may not know that he is decreasing life by just a few years or slightly lessening his resistance to disease. This is a no less certain result of faulty diet because it is not so apparent. It is less in degree, though similar in kind.
What are the joys which reward one who takes the trouble to discover the best way of eating and lives accordingly?
The chief joy is the feeling of well being, with out which life is incomplete. Energy, strength, endurance, ease of motion, alertness and clearness of mind result. A keener enjoyment of dancing, golf, and pleasurable pastimes becomes possible. The knowledge that health is at the top notch, that disease is not to be unduly feared, the freedom from minor ailments, the readiness for every task, compensate for any trouble involved in learning dietetic truths, or self control incident to observing the same.
Another advantage is the maintenance of a normal weight. There is no pleasure in being grotesquely stout or thin. This, all will acknowledge. The pleasure of feeling one's weight again normal after a loss of considerable excess, can only be appreciated by those who have had the experience. However, any one can imagine the pleasure Aladdin would bring to a modern city if, on making semi-annual visits, he wished the excess weight off about half of the population.
On the other hand, a sufficient and well balanced diet for the under nourished would supplant " that tired feeling," with one of energy, strength, and vigor.
The pleasure to woman of a becoming figure is well proven by the numerous aids to beauty which have their well established place in the world of today. The husband can enjoy to the full his admiration and pride when he realizes that his wife has preserved somewhat of that early beauty which so often fades as the result of Nature's laws transgressed.
History has shown that luxury and ease have their disadvantages. One is the ill-health which accompanies dietetic license. In the last thirty years, the age of expectancy as to length of life has much increased for the infant, because of more intelligent feeding; for the young adult, because of control of contagious diseases; but it has decreased for the person above thirty, largely on account of faulty diet. When man is once trained to eat more carefully and to follow other established laws of health, he will lessen the physical deterioration of the race. The physical degeneracy that accompanies luxury is entirely preventable, and is the fault of man himself. If while observing correct principles of diet and hygiene, moral and mental laws are learned and followed, the downfall of nations, which has heretofore so certainly followed their rise, will be prevented. Too much has been left to environment. If man learned a few great facts and followed them consistently, he would thereby become superior to his environment.
The proposition is simply this: Normal living gives health and strength; abnormal, when extreme, gives pain and suffering; when of lesser degree, it gives minor ailments which insidiously steal away the health of the individual ere he is aware. There is no happiness so sure or on such firm foundation as that gained by living a normal life.