This section is from the book "Fletcherism. What It Is, Or How I Became Young At Sixty", by Horace Fletcher. Also available from Amazon: Fletcherism, What It Is, Or How I Became Young At Sixty.
Dietetic Righeousness - The Disgrace of Sickness - The Optimism of the Fletcherite
In order that there shall be no misunderstanding let us agree upon the dictionary definition of "Decent." It is "Having propriety of conduct."
Fletcherism, in turn, is defined as "A method of thorough mastication recommended by Horace Fletcher."
No self-respecting person wishes to be indecent about anything, and especially about things that are sacred.
I use the term "Indecent" because it has an ugly look and sound. It is more than thoughtless or careless. It is positively indecent and nothing less. So is ugly and irreverential eating more culpable than mere heedlessness when we come to consider what it means in the way of consequences. It spells Indecency from the beginning to the end of the process involved in the act.
You may have a very poor opinion of the namesake in the case, but you must be glad that he discovered for himself that decent eating means recuperation of health if it has been shaken: preservation of health if it is a fortunate possession: and epicurean enjoyment that cannot be realized in full without it.
I repeat that the term Fletcherite is not a personal monopoly but a popular and dictionary creation. I am selfish enough to be glad that Gladstone escaped the distinction of having his great name used as a designation of decent eating.
When I was called upon to deliver an address before the New York Academy of Medicine on "Possibilities of Recuperation after Fifty," I used a phrase of my own coining, "Dietetic Righteousness," and was later called to account for having been irreverent in using sacred terms in connection with food and eating. "By George!" I replied, in righteous indignation, "Is there anything more sacred than serving faithfully at the altar of our Holy Efficiency?" "Is there any righteousness more respectable than that which furnishes fuel for healthy efficiency and moral stability?" And the question may now be repeated, "Is there?"
As for indecency: Is there any conduct having less propriety than regarding our wonderful mouth, with its prodigious potency for protection and pleasure, as a mere food and drink hopper for good material, which becomes really swill in the alimentary canal if it is not properly treated in the mouth? Can any one think of anything more indecent than offensive odours which are the inevitable tell-tale of indecent eating, and which are eliminated from possibility of development if eating has been decently performed? The penance, or even pleasure, of frequent bathing, in order that the tell-tales of indecency may not become public, does not atone for the sinning in the beginning. The real damage has been done in the, and to the, delicate alimentary canal, with consequences to be realized later on in terms of odious disease or premature death. These are the inside facts in the case made bare by frank presentation.
I believe it was the great American philosopher, Emerson, who said that it is "A greater disgrace to be sick than to be in the penitentiary. When you are arrested it is because you have broken a man-made statute, but when you are ill, it is because you have disobeyed one of God's laws."As elsewhere remarked, it is almost impossible in civilized surroundings not to disobey some of the natural laws: body-venti-lation, first of all; but no sinning is so dreadfully punished as indecent eating persistently practised.
Some of the ancients believed that the mysterious Something that they called the Soul was located in the stomach and not in the heart or brain. There was reason for thus placing the location, because the bad effect of unhappy thought or anything that "touches the heart" is first felt in the stomach if it has any troubles of its own at the moment to worry about, due to indecent haste or carelessness in eating. To the habitual Fletcherite such double disaster does not come. Easy digestion has been assured by beginning it in the manner required by Mother Nature, and to arrest it by unfavourable psychic influence for a little time does not result in the production of those poisons which wear out the body faster than any other cause. The worst of news may be sprung on one as a terrible surprise, and cloud the happiness for a time without causing damage to the delicate vital organs. Thus the misfortune, or its opposite in disguise, as the case may be, does not set up a vicious circle of accumulating fad effects. The thorough Fletcherite is a philosopher, with a solid foundation for his or her faith in the Good that may be lodged in even seeming misfortune, and the recovery from the shock of disappointment, in order to discover the Good at next hand, is as speedy as desired. The faithful one is ever ready to go before the bar of Death's Tribunal for the approving judgment his dietetic righteousness is sure to secure. Good circles of healthy cause and effect have been swirling about in the organism as the result of faithful decent eating, and Nature or Nature's God never fail to perpetuate the evolution of the Good.
Fairness or politeness to the part of the wonderful alimentary canal which Mother Nature has assigned to herself to manage is nothing more than common decency; and no privacy of privilege can ever excuse any indecent eating. Just think of all the latitude Mother Nature has given her favourite child man in the way of easy convenience in doing the right thing in eating. He is not compelled to eat every few minutes to keep himself alive, as he is compelled to do in breathing: or every few days, as in hydrating his internal economy with moisture. Never is he caught with his bunkers empty of food for fuel or repair material. Be he as thin as a hatpin, comparatively, he has stored under his skin enough nourishment to last him comfortably for a month. Neither is he terrorised by the conventional gnawing of hunger. He is per force wise as to the physiology of nourishment and his stored resources within, and turns any impatience for his habitual rhythm of feeding into a savings bank fund for use when convenient. He is not frightened to death, as indecent thinkers or eaters are, by the prospect of a fast lasting a few hours or days. He knows that he has on him and in him enough reserve supply of nourishment in the form of visible or interstitial fat, and other necessary supply, to last for a long time, forty or fifty days, at least, and there is plenty of time for expected or unexpected relief to happen. He comes to know the value of his mechanism, and the mental and soul essence it produces and supports. His knowledge of his own resourcefulness is sufficient to enable him to conserve all vital strength until hoped for relief comes. Or, being in tune with the good intentions of the Universal Life of which he is a part, he never dreads the promotion we call death. It is merely a station on the road of evolution, and just as sure as we are of death and taxes, so is a faithful Fletcherite certain that he is travelling the road of natural evolution. He has not only eaten decently in the way of fulfilling the natural mechanical and chemical requirements in the mouth, but he has abstained from eating when the mental state was not favourable, and has refrained from worry when the prospect of a meal was deferred for a little while or indefinitely. He may have been whinnying like a healthy horse in anticipation of revelling in the delights of delicious taste, and yet is not filled with disappointment at the postponement of the expected pleasure if the dinner appointment is upset or delayed.
This quite Utopian possibility of stable equanimity is the assured result of consistent decent eating, and thinking relative to nutrition. It is the constitution and bye-laws of Fletcherism. As a natural presumption, when decency in one direction leads to such delightful fruition, the opposite of it, indecency, must swing its pendulum to the extent of its full scope in the contrary direction, and it does, for compensation is one of the laws of Nature that must be fulfilled. It is true that Nature is always trying to accommodate herself to any abuse. She may permit being so much accustomed to it that the punishment of it at the moment is not noticed. She even encourages the acceleration of the vicious circle that leads to momentary bankruptcy of resistance, penitence, and reform, as in the case of "bilious attacks." The man who takes his daily or hourly prescription of alcoholic stimulant is permitted to believe that if a little seems good, more should be better until he is landed under the table. He becomes more and more efficient in "standing" the abuse until "under the table" means "under the sod." The abuses have, however, been just as disagreeable to Normality all the way along as the first drop of alcohol was distasteful to the infant in arms. So, too, with tobacco, in a less violent form.
Faithful practice of decent eating reverses the order of progress. Normality of taste is the new direction taken. Appetite is given a chance to discriminate, and it chooses simple food, having the chemical constituents required by the body at the moment. It accommodates itself to the daily activity, and can be trusted as the only completely-wise prescriber of what food to take, and how much of it the body can utilize just then.
Herein lies the value of decent respect for Appetite in securing optimum digestion and nutrition. It does not treat all persons alike because no two persons can be alike. Infinite variety is the fundamental law of Nature. Some persons are born to carry more fat than others. To try to keep them thin is a sin against the natural intention. To allow them to become too fat is also a sin. Strictly decent eating settles this question in conjunction with the sort and amount of activity that the particular person is intended by his or her "Hereditary Tendency "to exert.