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Historical Notes On When, What And How To Eat

You may find it easier to understand and practice what you’ve learned in The Science of Being Well if you know something of the historical context in which Mr. Wattles wrote it.

When Should You Eat?

First, why did Mr. Wattles believe that “even if you are in a condition of apparent starvation or great emaciation, if there is no hunger you may know that FOOD CANNOT BE USED, and it will be unnatural and wrong for you to eat”?

As mentioned in my notes at the end of Chapter 9, Mr. Wattles clearly drew many of his ideas about the effectiveness of medicine and eating habits from the works of Edward Hooker Dewey, M.D. In his preface he mentions Dewey’s book, The No-Breakfast Plan and the Fasting Cure, published in 1900. This book is a fascinating autobiographical account of the experimentation and conclusions of a medical doctor who practiced for more than 40 years, beginning with treating soldiers in the American Civil War, and then continuing with family practice.

Common medical practice of the day included feeding an ill person toxic medicines such as mercury as well as vast quantities of milk and strong alcohol. It was also generally believed that food would give a person strength to heal, so people were forced to eat regardless of hunger, appetite, and even if they were vomiting.

Dr. Dewey’s observations include the following, with my “translations” shown in parentheses:

In all cases of acute sickness there was always a wasting of the body no matter how much they were fed; a like increase of general strength when a normal desire for food occurred no matter how little they were fed.

I could recall a great many cases in which because of intense aversion to food patients had been sick for many days, and even weeks, with not enough nourishment taken to account for the support of vital power… The body, of course, would waste during the time of sickness; but so did the bodies of the sick that were fed. As for medicines, they were utterly ignored except where pain was to be relieved (with morphine), though unmedicated doses (placebos) were alike a necessity with all. Not a single medicine was given except for pain, and occasionally in cases in which I had reason to think the entire digestive tract needed a general clearing of foul sewage. (Laxatives were given.) Thence on, that supreme work, the cure of disease, in my hands became the work of Nature only.

In general practice I was able to carry out the non-feeding plan by permitting the various meat teas or the cereal broths, none of which can be taken by the severely sick in quantities to do harm. By withholding milk I was enabled to secure all the fasting Nature required, while satisfying the ever-anxious friends with tea and broth diversions.

I had no fatalities that were apparently in any way due to the enforced lack of food. In cases of chronic disease in which death was inevitable, such as cancer, consumption (tuberculosis), etc., patients were permitted to take what they could with the least offence to the sense of relish (enjoyable flavor). In every case of recovery there was a history of increasing general strength as the disease declined, of an actual increase of vital power without the support of food that had no more relish than the dose (medicine) that crucified the nerves of taste.

Dr. Dewey goes on to describe the intense criticism he received from the medical community for his practice of fasting all his patients. The cure rate of his patients was apparently significantly higher than that experienced by the patients of his more traditional colleagues. He includes descriptions of those who took fasting into their own hands and cured themselves of chronic, but less disabling diseases. They were able to continue to work at their jobs while consuming only fluids.

He then experimented with avoiding breakfast to solve chronic digestive ailments, and met with such great success that he recommended the practice of beginning the day without food. Thus, he is credited with the “no-breakfast plan”.

Dr. Dewey discovered that in cases of infectious disease with no appetite, fasting was effective. This recommendation is still useful for illnesses which will certainly heal without medical intervention, such as the common cold and intestinal flu in a reasonably strong person. In a person already weakened by malnutrition before the onset of the infection, or in those whose immune system is severely compromised, as in AIDS, fasting is not recommended. In any case, fasting for more than a few days should be supervised by a doctor who is an expert in therapeutic fasting, but who will also enthusiastically assist you in following the principles of the Science of Being Well.

What Should You Eat?

Chapter 10, “What To Eat” has been rewritten with the following historical information in mind.

In Mr. Wattles’ time, food was commonly believed to be the source of uniform units of raw material for replacing cells destroyed in the process of work. It was not generally accepted that a variety of raw materials was required or that a variety of types of food was required in order to provide them. Further, there was no recognition that the specific nutritional needs of a growing child or of a woman who was pregnant or nursing her baby might be different. By this logic, any food, if properly chewed, could release sufficient raw materials to replace the cells in any person. It would not matter what food a person ate, so long as he extracted its nourishment by chewing.

It had been observed before 1910 that eating limes would prevent and cure scurvy, a common disease among sailors, but it was not understood why this was true. High value foods were generally regarded to be those that “stuck to the ribs”, meaning a person felt full long after eating. (This is true of foods such as fatty meat.) Sugar was also valued, as it was tasty and expensive. Those who touted the value of vegetables were regarded as .faddists.. The concept that certain foods contained specific nutrients needed for health was either unknown or ridiculed.

Meat, fat, bread and sugar were the main parts of a common western diet, except on farms where fresh milk, vegetables and fruits were available. Overeating was a significant cause of chronic illness, especially among the wealthy. (In America today, it is one of the most prevalent causes of ill health and death across most social classes.) Infectious disease, particularly tuberculosis, was rampant, and did not spare the “well-fed”. Today we understand that poor nutrition—either too little of the right thing or too much of the wrong thing—is the primary cause in weakening the body so that it becomes susceptible to both infection and chronic disease.

Mr. Wattles apparently reasoned that because all foods were equal in their ability to deliver the raw materials needed by the body, it did not really matter what a person ate. (He was, however, influenced by thinkers who believed that if overeating was avoided, the person would naturally want to eat what the body needed.) What mattered was the attitude of faith and enjoyment in eating, along with adequate chewing.

In the nearly 100 years following the publication of The Science of Being Well, an enormous amount has been learned about the function of the human body and the role of nutrition in health and disease. No body of work I have encountered is as impressive as the work of Dr. Weston Price, published in medical journals throughout the 1920s and 1930s, and compiled in 1939 as a book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

Dr. Price was a dentist who sought to understand what caused the extremely high incidence of tooth decay among Americans, and what could be done about it. He found that among the American communities he studied, 25 to 75 percent of people had decayed teeth. His method was to find and investigate the diet and lifestyle of people whose teeth were without decay. He wisely chose to study, as Mr. Wattles advised, health rather than sickness.

Dr. Price’s quest led him to travel more than 100,000 miles all over the world to study healthy groups of people. These included isolated villages in Switzerland, Gaelic communities in the Outer Hebrides, communities of Inuits and other Native Canadians and Native Americans, Melanesian and Polynesian South Sea Islanders, Native Africans, Australian Aborigines, New Zealand Maori, and Native Peruvians. He compared those living and eating according to ancestral tradition with those eating the “white man’s” food and living on reservations, in missions, in neighboring cities, or in ports of trade. Where possible, he also studied the Caucasian people in communities alongside the “natives”.

His collection included meticulous measurements, 20,000 photographs, laboratory samples of food and saliva, and interviews with the people he studied and the doctors who served them. He then tested his theories on his patients in the U.S. and found them to be correct.

What Did Dr. Price Find?

1. The incidence of dental decay—or its absence—matched the overall health of an individual.

2. In traditional communities that had access to Western doctors (who were able to verify this information), incidence of cancer, arthritis, rheumatism, scurvy, rickets, and other common diseases of the time was nonexistent. Nearby Caucasians had a significant incidence of all these problems.

3. Several of the traditional groups were particularly noted for their remarkable eyesight. They were able to see stars thought to be visible only through telescopes. Australian Aborigines were especially noted for their excellent vision, able to see not only faint stars but to describe the movement of an animal more than a mile away that was not visible to the white person at all.

4. Most groups were noted for their magnificent singing voices and ability to memorize and sing very complex music.

5. Traditional people were magnificent in stature (both men and women in some groups were between 6 and 71/2 feet tall), with enormous strength and endurance. They were able to walk tremendous distances in mountainous regions carrying 200 and 300 pound loads, even at advanced ages, travel by sail and human power thousands of miles, launch and maneuver small boats in extremely rough seas. Central to their lives was a great deal of physical activity, both in procuring food and in community celebrations.

6. Skills in medicine, surgery, engineering, music, and survival in extreme climates left no doubt as to their intellectual capabilities. These skills in many cases surpassed the skills of “modern man”.

7. The details of traditional diets were often carefully guarded, as they were in some cases regarded to be as important to the survival of the group as the secrets of modern military defense. Only after much discussion was information given.

8. The “white man’s” diet was made up of foods that could be shipped long distances and stored without refrigeration. It included refined wheat flour, refined sugar, polished rice, preserved jams and jellies, canned foods, and vegetable fats.

9. Communities following traditional diets and lifestyles had an incidence of tooth decay ranging from zero to less than one percent of the teeth affected by decay. Tooth brushing was not practiced.

10. Individuals who left the traditional community for a year or two and lived in “white” society had tooth decay during the time they were away. The decay stopped when they returned to their previous lifestyles.

11. Compared with a Swiss community of exceptional health, a nearby community famous for its spas and dental hygiene but eating “modern” foods had a high rate of dental decay. In other words, tooth brushing did not significantly impact the incidence of dental decay.

12. Traditional communities had zero tuberculosis. Other communities had major problems with this disease, which was the most common cause of death worldwide. When people replaced their traditional diet with the “white man’s” diet, infectious disease was epidemic. Nearly 100 percent of those with tuberculosis also had significant tooth decay.

13. If a child’s parents had replaced their traditional diet with “white man’s” food prior to conceiving the child, that child invariably developed a significant change in the bony structure of the skull. The sinuses would be improperly formed, so that the child had lifelong difficulty breathing properly. The upper and lower jaws would be narrowed or malformed, so that the teeth did not have adequate space. They would then grow in crooked, crowded, and out of place. The child would also have a narrower bone structure throughout the body. For girls, this narrowing of the hips resulted in great difficulties in childbirth.

14. Overall birth rates declined after a group adopted the “modern” diet.

15. Infectious disease and death rates skyrocketed after a group adopted the “modern” diet.

16. Incidence of dental decay and chronic disease was extremely high among those eating the .modern. diet, regardless of race. Caucasians in Australia and New Zealand, for example, were found to have the highest rate of tooth decay among all groups studied.

17. Among groups following traditional diets and lifestyles, crime was unknown. Delinquent behavior was unknown. The overall happiness, harmony, and generous spirits of these people noted by previous explorers was confirmed by Dr. Price. Mental illness was not found. Only after groups had adopted the “modern” diet and developed significant tooth decay did suicide develop. This was due to excruciating pain, as many groups exposed to “modern” diets developed problems before the accompanying “modern” clinics were built to take care of the “modern” problems. They had no dentists. After adopting “modern” diets, people were also observed to become “quarrelsome”.

18. Analysis of delinquents and criminals in America showed they had the same abnormal bone structure found in the children of those who adopted the “modern” diet. (More recent studies have also shown patterns of nutrient deficiencies and imbalances among those in prison.)

19. Dr. Price analyzed the foods eaten by the traditional groups. He compared what he found to American nutritional standards. He found that traditional diets provided four to six times the water soluble vitamins (vitamins B and C), calcium and other minerals, and ten times the fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, and E) from animal foods such as butter, fish, eggs, shellfish and organ meats. The “modern” or “white man’s” diet provided less than half the requirements of American nutritional standards. (The diet eaten by most people in modern times also falls short of recommended minimal nutritional standards.)

20. When Dr. Price supplemented the diets of his patients with foods similar to those eaten by groups in comparable climates, he observed dramatic health improvements by all measures.

From all his observations, Dr. Price concluded that nutrition was the cornerstone of physical and mental health, and that it could override even heredity. Reading his words today, I suspect that there were other aspects of community life that were also important in creating the result of perfect health. For when the people he studied changed their eating habits, they also changed much of the rest of their way of life.

In traditional groups, community life revolved around hunting, fishing, gathering, growing, preparing and eating food. This involved everyone in the group working together as a community and in intimate interaction with the abundant natural world that was the source of their sustenance. The more a group adopted the “modern” diet, the less involved they were in traditional interactions in community and with the natural world. The implications of this change are profound, and will be addressed in future publications. (Keep reading my newsletter, Be Well!)

The Science of Being Well is unique in prescribing a much broader foundation for health than just nutrition. It recommends a life of gratitude, peace, mindfulness, personal responsibility, intimate relationship with one’s spiritual AND physical source of life and health, and positive relationship with oneself and other people. Mr. Wattles understood, as you now can, that being well involves thinking AND acting in this Certain Way.

If I Eat The Right Food, Do I Still Have To Chew It To liquid?

Yes, if perfect health is your goal.

Mr. Wattles refers in this matter to the work of Horace Fletcher, explained in “The A.B.-Z.of Our Own Nutrition”. In his introduction, Mr. Fletcher explains the purpose of this book:

The author has, in collaboration with several others, found a way how not to eat too much while eating all that the appetite desires, and in a way that leads to a maximum of good taste and at a minimum of cost and waste…

He then introduces the experiments conducted at Yale University for the purpose of testing his theory on “many persons of different physiques and varying temperaments” and also to test other “methods of attainment of economy, and to learn what is best for general application”.

Mr. Fletcher’s own story is this, in his own words:

About ten years ago, at the critical age of 44, the author was fast becoming a physical wreck in the midst of a business, club, and social tempest. Although he was trained as an athlete in his youth and had lived an active and most agreeable life, he had contracted a degree of physical disorder that made him ineligible as an insurance risk. This unexpected disability, with such unmistakable warning, was so much of a shock to his hopes of a long life that it led to his making a strong personal effort to save himself. The study was taken up in systematic manner, account of which is too long to relate here. But the eager auto-reformer soon learned that his troubles came from too much of many things, among them too much food and too much worry. Realising the danger ahead, he sought a way to cure himself of his disabilities by the help of an economic food supply. What is even more important, he found a way to enjoy the smaller quantity of food much more than any plethoric luxury can give, and arrived at a means of conserving a healthy economy and an increased pleasure of eating, at the same time, in quite a simple and scientific manner, that any one may learn and practise without any ascetic deprivation whatever.

A further important note to the study of the Science of Being Well regards the importance of caring for the body in such a way that it does not distract from or interfere with one’s mental focus, but instead creates the inner peace and vitality that make mental focus easy. Referring to his earlier book, Menticulture, Mr. Fletcher notes:

Pursuit of menticulture led further to the discovery that the best results could not be accomplished in a body weakened by any indigestion, any mal-assimilation of nutriment or any excess of the waste of indigestion.

If you have ever experienced irresistible sleepiness after a meal, or pain, bloating or irritablity, you are familiar with the difficulties of mental focus in such states. The Science of Being Well wisely guides you in performing the mental actions to support proper physical actions and the physical actions to support proper mental actions.

The bulk of Mr. Fletcher.s book, The A.B.-Z. of Our Own Nutrition, is a detailed description of scientific research on the role of chewing in digestion. The following results of this research are directly relevant to The Science of Being Well:

1. The production of digestive juices in the stomach begins with the anticipation of eating even more than with the actual contact with food in the stomach. In other words, the eager anticipation of food is critical to proper digestion.

2. Eating foods which do not appeal to the eater results in a drastic decrease in both the quantity and strength of digestive juices compared with foods which the eater desires.

3. Proper digestion requires chewing food thoroughly. This breaks the food into small particles and mixes it with saliva. Saliva contains substances which begin to digest the food in the mouth and prepare it for further digestion in the stomach.

4. Psychological shock or upset stops the process of digestion.

5. Chewing food to liquid form dramatically reduces both the quantity of food required by a person and the quantity of stool he produces.

From these few facts alone, you can understand the importance of the principles of eating described by Mr. Wattles:

• You must not eat until you are truly hungry.

• Before eating, your attention must be on the anticipation of food so that extra saliva is produced (“mouthwatering” anticipation).

• You must want to eat what you are about to eat.

• You must chew your food thoroughly.

• You must remain in a peaceful environment and state of mind from the beginning to the end of the digestive process.

• You will be well-nourished on much less food than you ate when you did not chew it, and you can expect your digestion to be much more efficient.

Interesting, isn’t it, that science backs up what your grandmother might have told you: Be grateful for your meal, slow down and chew your food, and think peaceful and happy thoughts.

It’s good stuff!


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