At my second meal, 1.30,I eat potatoes and vegetables that are in season, experiencing no harm from young peas or beans, but finding asparagus quite a poison to me. Three years ago I wrote to Dr. Haig, saying that I had been less well, and asking if it could be from asparagus, as I had been eating it twice a day for ten days during my full spring supply. He answered that, as far as he knew, asparagus was quite harmless, and that he thought I must have taken a chill. Last year, on the same symptoms reappearing, I wrote again. Dr. Haig replied as follows : '1 write a line at once to tell you what I know will interest you - that the asparagus is the cause of all your troubles.' This did not surprise me very much, as I knew that thirty years ago Dr. Garrod, the great gout specialist of that time, used to forbid asparagus to his patients. In winter, for the sake of change, I sometimes eat some well-cooked lentils. At this meal I generally eat salad, with about an ounce of cheese and a good big slice of home-made white bread with butter. If I still feel hungry I eat a milky pudding and some stewed fruit. This is unwise for those who are dyspeptics, as fruit and vegetables are best kept for separate meals (see Dr. Kellogg's 'science in the Kitchen'); fortunately, I have had a good digestion all my life. My great object has always been, within certain health conditions, to keep my feeding as nearly as possible that which will fit in with the non-dietists who surround me. For instance, I always serve potatoes with fish, that I may take something and so save the depressing effect of a person sitting so long at table without eating anything; and once or twice a month I have been known to take a little bit of fish if I fancied it, especially if I have been lunching or dining out, though I have proved conclusively that so simple a food (according to ordinary ideas) as plain boiled fish, if I eat it two or three days running, has a distinctly injurious effect on the rheumatic pain in my hip.
This sensitiveness to change of food is one of the strongest arguments used by the opponents of diet, and I confess it has some disadvantages ; but this applies to all forms of abstinence, and I would rather suffer occasionally than submit to an habitually low standard of health.The enemies of dieting - and most doctors to whom I have spoken about it are of the number - declare that the great objection to strict dieting is that it weakens the digestion. This, I think, is quite true of the Salisbury diet - namely, meat and hot water, as that gives the digestion next to nothing to do, and dilutes the gastric juices with quantities of hot water ; but Dr. Haig's diet of cereals, cheese, milk, salad, raw fruit, and vegetables, is by no means easy of digestion, and the quickness with which I am now made aware of the harmfulness of many things that I used to take with apparent impunity, is in my opinion due, not to a weakened digestion, but to a return of healthy sensitiveness, induced by living for a long time on the natural food of man. I am quite sure if meat were given to horses, cows, or monkeys, though starvation might force them to eat it, they would be made very ill by such a diet. Rightly or wrongly, this seems to me the attitude to take towards the objection raised against what is called the 'weak digestion' of the vegetarian.
We have always been told that dyspeptics live for ever - this only means that nature is severely kind and sets pain as a sentinel to warn them when they have eaten something which they are unable to assimilate, and experience teaches them what to take and what to avoid; whereas the person of strong digestion, warned by no suffering, swallows everything and thinks he may do so with impunity. We all know how healthy children and healthy animals show when anything disagrees with them, and some of us well remember how the old nurses used to say, 'The sick baby always thrives,' meaning the baby whose stomach refused to be overloaded.
At 5 o'clock, for the meal which I still call ' Tea,' with the same truthfulness that I say 'The sun sets' though I know it doesn't, I drink one or two teacups of separated milk and hot water in equal proportions, and eat two or three pieces of toast made from home-made white bread, with butter, jam or honey, or watercress.
The meal at night when I am alone I own I seldom enjoy. I sometimes, besides home-made bread, have melted cheese (see receipts), or macaroni, sometimes rice and onions or other vegetable, with bread and butter and a little dried or fresh fruit, or both. At meals I drink very little indeed, milk being counted as nourishment rather than drink, but if I feel thirsty I take a little water - great thirst I should look upon as a sign of bad health, unless produced by excessive exercise. It is not a necessity, but I constantly drink a tumbler, or half a tumbler, of either moderately hot or cold water on getting up in the morning or on going to bed, or perhaps both.
Many people would say, ' So strict a way of diet would make life unbearable,'but after a time this strictness so changes the taste that the simpler foods are really enjoyed, and I distinctly think, that when people have dieted for several years, the amount of harm done by an occasional relapse is so small that the social convenience of it makes it worth while, so long as it is acknowledged as a concession to weakness and not a thing to be continued. It is what is done every day that matters.
People often tell me they feel so much better when they leave off the diet. This would only be a proof to me that they had not strictly dieted long enough, or had been under-nourished, and that the return to stimulating food does for them what alcohol does for those who already have too much in their system, and is merely a putting back of ultimate cure. I think all who have tried the diet for some time can always regulate it according to their varying requirements, if they will read the books and give the matter a little consideration. I, for instance, am always being told that I underfeed, and Dr. Haig never sees me without expressing his surprise that I am as well as I am, considering that I live a good deal on vegetables and certainly, as a rule, take much below the correct amount of proteids for my age and weight. My under-feeding cannot be serious, for I sleep my six or seven hours, have not lost or gained flesh, and feel perfectly well. I often have tried to add food of a more nourishing kind, such as curd cheese, Plasmon biscuits, milk, &c, but after a few days I generally find it has a tendency to bring on a slight return of rheumatic stiffness. I am inclined to think that the doctors who preach great moderation, whatever the diet, such as Dr. Keith and Dr. Dewey, have a good deal of truth on their side, as, though the proper standard of strength will never be attained by the under-fed, still the full allowance of food may go to feed the particular weakness or ailment which people of a certain age are almost sure to have, and will thus prevent them reaching the level of health they might have on a lower standard. People seem to assimilate food so differently that, given there is no permanent pallor, especially no very white gums, or sense of fatigue, each one must judge a little for himself what he requires. Did I not suffer less from fatigue than I have ever done in my life, I should try harder to live up to the standard settled by physiologists as necessary to health, and which would doubtless be essential were I younger. I tried some Grape-nuts in the winter and felt a hot Hercules for a few days, but I believe them to be distinctly a gout-making food.