This section of the book is from "Fasting, Hydropathy and Exercise", by Bernarr MacFadden.
Like a festival at the end of the week, it sustains the energy of the laborer with the prospect of an adequate reward. The gratification of a well-earned appetite is something very different from the listless compliance with a conventional custom or the attendance at a regulation meal which a sanitary intuition denounces as an aggravation of an already grievous surfeit. A twenty-two hours' fast will make a meal of bread and baked apples more palatable than all the arts of the Freres Provenceaux could make three daily banquets to a dyspeptic.
One great advantage of frequent meals is founded on the fact that repletion does not at once announce itself to the instinct of a gourmand, and that the interval preceding a decided consciousness of satiety may have been abused for a congestion of the alimentary system. Upon the one-meal plan that risk is obviated, or at least greatly lessened. After a fast of twenty-two hours it is almost impossible to eat with relish more than the system can utilize in the course of a night and a day.
The Roman custom also obviated an affliction that has turned thousands of plow-boys into tramps and driven more than one dyspeptic to suicide, viz.: the misery of hard work directly after a full meal. "I didn't mind being waked before daybreak to feed the cows," says a rural correspondent of the Chautauquan. "I could stand wood-chopping in a sleet-storm and ditching in an all-day drizzle, but if the old man routed me out of my siesta nap under the canopy of a shade tree to recommence plowing in the blazing sun, I felt things that can be only summarized in the impression that the change from wigwams to modern farms was a mistake, if the attainment of happiness has anything to do with the purposes of civilization."
And those protests of instinct are, indeed, well founded. Not only that the progress of digestion is thus interrupted, not only that the body derives no strength from the inert mass of ingesta, but that mass, by undergoing a putrid instead of peptic decomposition, vitiates the humors of the system it was intended to nourish, irritates the sensitive membranes of the stomach, and gradually impairs the vigor of the whole digestive apparatus.
Plenus renter non studet libenter," was a Latin proverb"a filled stomach abhors study," and immediately after dinner mental efforts are certainly quite as ill-timed as hard bodily labor. No other hygienic mistake, not even the stimulant fallacy, has done so much to make ours a generation of dyspeptics. Brain-work interferes with digestion as noise and motion interfere with sleep. Hence, the sallow complexion, the hollow eyes, and the weary gait of thousands of city clerks, scholars, lawyers, newspaper hacks, and even physicians. Hence, the gastric torments of poor, overworked teachers, who (unlike happier servants of the public) cannot shirk their work, and have to snatch their dinner during a brief interval of the hardest kind of mental drudgery.
The evening-dinner plan would obviate all that misery. The noon-recess could be devoted to a bath, a half hour's chat in the shade, and the toiler would return to his work refreshed. That contrast, once known from practical experience, would preclude the temptation of a return to the unsanitary plan. Boys in their early teens can be taught to consider eating between evening meals a transgression against the health-laws of Nature. Dr. J. H. Lincoln of Hamilton County, Tennessee, had trained his youngsters in rational dietetics till he could trust them not to break their noonday fast for the sake of any tidbits. "For shame!" he used to say, "the idea of wanting to eat before your day's work is done! It's just as if a mechanic should claim his wages before he had earned them."
Evening diners also escape the risk of sunstrokes. "Surfeit strokes" would be a far more appropriate name for an affection almost unknown in Spanish America, where rich and poor suspend labor during the heat of the afternoon. The self-regulating tendency of our organism can hold its own against a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade; it might resist the added grievance of superfluous clothing, but succumbs to a combination of sun-heat, sweltering dry-goods, and superheated, greasy made-dishes. A sunstroke fit is, in fact, caused by what physicians call a "zymotic process of blood-changes"in plainer words, the humors of the living body begin to ferment. The system has ways of its own to counteract that risk, but may try in vain to apply them when its energies are diverted by the task of compromising a reckless surfeit. Who has not noticed the bodily and mental vigor that facilitates all sorts of work in the early morning hours? It is only partly due to a difference of temperature, for indoor-workers, too, experience its benefits, and it would be a mistake to suppose that the invigorating effects of a good night's rest are limited to the early forenoon. At least half the morning energy is due to the fact that exemption from the task of digestion makes the reserve stores of vital vigor available for other work. The first meal forfeits that advantage, and by the simple plan of postponing breakfast the buoyancy of the early morning hours can be enjoyed all day.
My body is all forehead," said the naked Indian, when his Caucasian hunting companion wondered that he did not shiver in a snow-storm: and the faster's day is all morning.
If you cannot adopt the one-meal plan at once at least avoid breakfast. Here is how Dr. Dewey describes his first forenoon without breakfast:
I had a forenoon of such lofty mental cheer, such energy of soul and body, such a sense of physical ease as I had not known since a young man in my later teens. When the dinner-hour came there was an added relish that was a new experience, and I left the table with a stomach so supplied that there was no need of apprehension as to an attack of faintness during the afternoon. There is no natural hunger in the morning after a night of restful sleep, because there has been no such degree of cell destruction as to create a demand for food at the ordinary hour of the American breakfast. Sleep is not a hunger-causing process. To reinforce this statement and the reasons behind it, is the experience of thousands who have abandoned the morning meal, and in a short time lost all hint of a need of it. This could not have been had there been a need, for Nature is imperious, exacting; and it is not in the line of possibility that she will permit any getting used to less food than she requires to preserve her physiological balance. She easily permits you to skip that meal you do not need so soon after the refreshing sleep and which you always eat from habit; but later she will call you to account if you give less than her demands.
Now you are to abolish your breakfast, and not to presume to eat again without keen hunger; this hunger you may have if you wait for it, even while sitting in an arm chair, or lying in bed, and it will be for food as nourishing as the axman requires. What shall be eaten at each meal will be a law for self to determine. No food is good or healthful, and therefore typical, without a special demand for it. Keen hunger, the most relishing of foods, thoroughly masticated, a recreative state of mind during digestion, these are the easily acquired conditions behind sustained health.
But how sudden the revelation to me! Go without your breakfast and you will be hungry for your dinner ! And so hungry that you will forget to take your cod-liver dose! And the dinner is so well relished, and you feel so much better after it that you conclude to omit the dosing altogether! How simple! Only to fast, no matter if it costs a whole day, a whole week, or a whole month, and with absolute safety; why, do you not recall how energetically the digestive organs will work over the keenly relished food after the long fast due to fevers? How much more, then, may be expected from fasts that are to be no tax on vital power? Safe? Yes, beyond any question. As soon as the stomach and appendages have disposed of the decomposing, unbidden meals that are still a tax on vital power, there will be a positive increase of mental and physical power, so that when Nature's own signal for food is given, there is none of the exhausted feeling that is more or less realized before the needless morning meal.
Appetite will always come where death is not inevitable, no less in the ordinary conditions of low health than in cases of acute sickness, and fasting is the swiftest, the most effectual and the most unfailing of all devices ever conceived for inviting natural hunger. Keen hunger, hunger only, makes known the individual need."