IN view of the encouraging letters received, I am tempted to add more this month to what has already been said appropriate to the above heading.
Some years ago a noted medical man, at a lecture in Birmingham, said he had no doubt whatever that he could cure nine-tenths of his patients without medicine of any kind, and with but one and the same prescription, which was “abstain ! starve!” I have no reason for doubting the truth of this, but what does it mean? It means that nine out of ten of the people who become unwell brought their ill health upon themselves by unwise eating and drinking.
When a man drinks too much he becomes ill; he abstains and he becomes well. When a man eats too much he likewise becomes ill; if he abstains from eating altogether for short or long period, drinking nothing but pure water or fruit juices, he regains his lost health. In any case the adoption of the Doctors “prescription” as mentioned above, has done more than all else to keep the writer fit for nearly seventy years.
It may be wise to state the narrow meaning usually attached to “Temperance” – the abstaining from “alcoholic drinks” – and that of “Vegetarianism” – the abstaining from “fish, flesh and fowl” does not cure all the ills that flesh is heir to. I often think that the greatest misfortune that ever happened to the writer was not that “he was born poor: but rather that he was “born too fond of eating”. Although for many years I have abstained from fish, flesh, fowl and alcohol, together with tea and coffee, I still have the same battle to fight to be master of my own stomach and so keep fit, as is the case with the man or woman who abstains from none of the things mentioned.
In fact I often think that there may be more merit due to the poor drunkard in the temptations he has resisted, than is due to the lady who despises him for often falling to the temptation of which she knows nothing, while she reveals the fact that she is a slave to tea herself by saying, “Oh! I could not live without tea”, and may never have tried, although she may be a martyr to constipation herself through the drinking of tea and the eating of white bread.
some years ago I spent a holiday of a few weeks on a liner, and since then a holiday in the close company of about as many good folk on shore. On both occasions I was led to the conclusion that, judged by the fewness of my wants, I was perhaps the richest of them all. Many of them never seemed satisfied, especially the ladies unless they were tea drinking. If they did not drink tea six times a day it was not their fault. Surely they did not drink because they were thirst; I very much doubt whether they were thirsty once during their whole holidays.
Then why did they thus want tea to drink? It was certainly not for the food value it contained. On board ship at least, many were having six meals, more or less, per day, while the writer managed with two. He claims no merit for this, or his abstinence from the many things that others think they could not live without, for such things offer no temptation to him. One has only to “use ones self to that course of life which is best, custom will render it the most delightful”. Merit, I think, lies in the temptations one resists, not in the things one may do without.
It may accordingly be asked is there truly such a thing as self- denial in the respect of eating and drinking. I have never given up the use of any one thing without finding two better to take its place. To say nothing of fitness in exchange for ill-health. The moderate drinker tells us that it is the excessive use of alcohol that brings about the trouble, although we are now being told a different story by the medical profession and others, in view of the weekly slaughter that takes place in the motor world.
For the sake of argument, however, let us admit the “excess” contention. Is not this the very core of the trouble as regards eating as well as drinking? We can abuse our wonderful digestive organs while no part of our, no less wonderful, earthly tabernacles may appear to be any the worse, and we can say “it suits me, I have done this or that all my life”, but that is no argument that we shall be able to continue for ever. The reckoning day eventually comes, and we are then recommended by our Food Reform Practitioner” not to eat vegetables and fruit at the same time”, “not to drink at meals, but between meals” with lots of other “nots”.
But all such advice has a tendency to cause the patient to eat less and is all summed up under the one word “abstain”. We drop for the time being many or all of the stimulating foods and drinks we have been in the habit of taking. For the time being we may very wisely substitute for them what the patient thinks are the much less attractive bran foods, containing the necessary quantity of roughage. The nature of the foods themselves, together with the less quantity consumed, gives the digestive organs the long desired holiday, and gives Nature a chance to exchange pain and disease for joyous health and fitness.