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When To Eat

You cannot build and maintain a perfectly healthy body by mental action alone, or by the performance of the unconscious or involuntary functions alone. There are certain actions, more or less voluntary, which have a direct and immediate relation with the continuance of life itself. These are eating, drinking, breathing, and sleeping.

No matter what a persons thought or mental attitude may be, he cannot live unless he eats, drinks, breathes, and sleeps, and, moreover, he cannot be well if he eats, drinks, breathes, and sleeps in an unnatural or wrong manner. It is therefore vitally important that you should learn the right way to perform these voluntary functions, and I shall proceed to show you this way, beginning with the matter of eating, which is most important.

There has been a vast amount of controversy as to when to eat, what to eat, how to eat, and how much to eat, and all this controversy is unnecessary, for the Right Way is very easy to find. You have only to consider the Law which governs all attainment, whether of health, wealth, power, or happiness; and that law is that you must do what you can do now, where you are now; do every separate act in the most perfect manner possible, and put the power of faith into every action.

The processes of digestion and assimilation are under the supervision and control of an inner division of a person’s mentality, which is generally called the sub-conscious mind, and I shall use that term here in order to be understood. The sub-conscious mind is in charge of all the functions and processes of life, and when more food is needed by the body, it makes the fact known by causing a sensation called hunger.

Whenever food is needed and can be used, there is hunger, and whenever there is hunger it is time to eat. When there is no hunger it is unnatural and wrong to eat, no matter how great may APPEAR to be the need for food.

Even if you are in a condition of apparent starvation, with 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 eat5. Though you have not eaten for days or weeks, if you have no hunger you may be perfectly sure that food cannot be used, and will probably not be used if taken. Whenever food is needed, if there is power to digest and assimilate it, so that it can be normally used, the subconscious mind will announce the fact by a decided hunger.

Food, taken when there is no hunger, will sometimes be digested and assimilated, because Nature makes a special effort to perform the task which is thrust upon her against her will, but if food is habitually taken when there is no hunger, the digestive power is at last destroyed, and numberless evils caused.

If the foregoing be true—and it is indisputably so—it is a self-evident proposition that the natural time (and the healthy time) to eat is when one is hungry, and that it is never a natural or a healthy action to eat when one is not hungry. You see, then, that it is an easy matter to scientifically settle the question when to eat. ALWAYS eat when you are hungry, and NEVER eat when you are not hungry. This is obedience to nature, which is obedience to God.

We must not fail, however, to make clear the distinction between hunger and appetite.

Hunger is the call of the sub-conscious mind for more material to be used in repairing and renewing the body, and in keeping up the internal heat. Hunger is never felt unless there is need for more material, and unless there is power to digest it when taken into the stomach.

Appetite is a desire for the gratification of sensation. The drunkard has an appetite for liquor, but he cannot have a hunger for it. A normally fed person cannot have a hunger for candy or sweets. The desire for these things is an appetite. You cannot hunger for tea, coffee, spiced foods, or for the various taste-tempting devices of the skilled cook. If you desire these things, it is with appetite, not with hunger.

Hunger is nature’s call for material to be used in building new cells, and nature never calls for anything which may not be legitimately used for this purpose.

Appetite is often largely a matter of habit. If one eats or drinks at a certain hour, and especially if one takes sweetened or spiced and stimulating foods, the desire comes regularly at the same hour, but this habitual desire for food should never be mistaken for hunger.

Hunger does not appear at specified times. It only comes when work or exercise has used sufficient energy to make the taking in of new raw material a necessity.

For instance, if a person has been sufficiently fed on the preceding day, it is impossible that he should feel a genuine hunger on arising from refreshing sleep. In sleep the body is recharged with vital power, and the assimilation of the food which has been taken during the day is completed the system has no need for food immediately after sleep, unless the person went to his rest in a state of starvation. With a system of feeding which is even a reasonable approach to a natural one, no one can have a real hunger for an early morning breakfast. There is no such thing possible as a normal or genuine hunger immediately after arising from sound sleep.

The early morning breakfast is always taken to gratify appetite, never to satisfy hunger. No matter who you are, or what your condition is; no matter how hard you work, or how much you are exposed, unless you go to your bed starved, you cannot arise from your bed hungry.

Hunger is not caused by sleep, but by work. And it does not matter who you are, or what your condition, or how hard or easy your work, the so-called no-breakfast plan is the right plan for you. It is the right plan for everybody, because it is based on the universal law that hunger never comes until it is EARNED. I am aware that a protest against this will come from the large number of people who “enjoy” their breakfasts, whose breakfast is their “best meal”, who believe that their work is so hard that they cannot “get through the fore-noon on an empty stomach”, and so on. But all their arguments fall down before the facts.

They enjoy their breakfast as the toper enjoys his morning dram, because it gratifies a habitual appetite and not because it supplies a natural want. It is their best meal for the same reason that his morning dram is the toper’s best drink. And they CAN get along without it, because millions of people, of every trade and profession, DO get along without it, and are vastly better for doing so.

If you are to live according to the Science of Being Well, you must NEVER EAT UNTIL YOU HAVE AN EARNED HUNGER.

But if I do not eat on arising in the morning, when shall I take my first meal?

In 99 cases out of a hundred twelve o’clock noon is early enough, and it is generally the most convenient time. If you are doing heavy work, you will get by noon a hunger sufficient to justify a good-sized meal. And if your work is light, you will probably still have hunger enough for a moderate meal. The best general rule or law that can be laid down is that you should eat your first meal of the day at noon if you are hungry, and if you are not hungry, wait until you become so.

And when shall I eat my second meal?

Not at all, unless you are hungry for it—and that with a genuine earned hunger. If you do get hungry for a second meal, eat at the most convenient time, but do not eat until you have a really earned hunger.

The reader who wishes to fully inform himself as to the reasons for this way of arranging the mealtimes will find the best books thereon cited in the preface to this work. From the foregoing, however, you can easily see that the Science of Being Well readily answers the question, When, and how often shall I eat?

The answer: Eat when you have an earned hunger, and never eat at any other time.

Editor’s Note

In 1910, before the discovery of vitamins or calories, the role of food for life and health was unclear to most of western, white society. Even among western medical doctors, the process of digestion within the stomach and intestines was not yet understood. The roles of the liver, gall bladder, and pancreas were not known. How food was absorbed and transported throughout the body was unknown. The actual cellular processes of the human body were an utter mystery.

Mr. Wattles reasoned that work, whether mental or physical, “used up” or destroyed cells which must then be replaced. Hunger was the body’s signal that cells needed to be built. Sleep, however, was fully restorative, required no work, and resulted in increased energy. Therefore, he reasoned, sleep could not result in hunger, because it used no cells.

Is the “No-Breakfast Plan” the One for You?

First, understand that because your body does most of its growing and repair work during the night while you are sleeping, it is physiologically possible for you to generate some hunger. But it is rarely enough to require food immediately on rising. The body’s requirements during sleep are generally filled by the food eaten at previous meals is still being absorbed from the digestive tract.

Most people who experiment with fasting for some period after first rising from sleep find that they feel best this way. Many who grew up on dairy farms report that they would all rise well before sunrise (4 a.m.) and work for a good four hours before a hearty breakfast at 8 a.m. Others find that it is ideal to exercise vigorously (walk, run, swim, etc.) and then do some form of breathing and meditation practice before eating. We don’t know what time Mr. Wattles was assuming you would awaken if you were to wait until noon to eat, but his point about waiting until you are actually hungry is well advised.

If you find that you feel ill on waking, or after a prolonged period without food, and you do not have a blood sugar problem, the most likely explanation is that your body is reacting to something you ate. Try experimenting with different foods.

Another less common possibility relates to toxicity. If you have been exposed to nasty chemicals (for example, you smoked for years or your parents did, or you grew up in an area where chemicals were sprayed to kill mosquitoes or agricultural pests), residues of these chemicals are stored in your fat cells. When your body burns the fat, the chemicals are released into your blood, and you feel the effects. If you think this is going on, visit a naturopathic doctor for guidance.

Second, the standard American breakfast of 1910 that Mr. Wattles is warning against was a large, heavy meal including some combination of ham, sausage, eggs, beef steaks, and pork chops along with biscuits and gravy or corn-bread, pastries or bread and jam, and often fruit pie. It is not surprising that a person would feel better avoiding this gross overindulgence, especially if eaten before he was actually hungry!

Third, if you have some sort of blood sugar irregularity requiring more frequent meals, your body will let you know you are hungry. The vital aspect of this “when to eat” recommendation is to learn how to PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY with the relaxed attitude of gratitude, trust, curiosity, and unconditional love rather than being pushed around by habit, fear, anxiety, social customs, other people’s schedules and other people’s ideas about what is good for you.

Is Prolonged Fasting Safe?

If you are starved or emaciated, and have not eaten for days or weeks, is it safe to wait to eat until you feel hunger?

There is a wide variety of physical, mental, and psychological conditions that may be involved in a person becoming starved or emaciated. Medical supervision by a doctor familiar with conditions like this is essential. In modern times, we are equipped with all sorts of testing and monitoring to more accurately guide a person through critical states. We also have methods of nourishment that bypass the digestive tract when a weakened person can’t digest food.

However, it is important to understand the source of Mr. Wattles’ conviction that if you are not hungry, “food cannot be used, and that it is unnatural and wrong for you to eat.” Wattles clearly drew many of his ideas about the effectiveness of medicine and eating habits from the works of Edward Hooker Dewey, M.D., who he names in the preface to this book. You can read fascinating excerpts from Dr. Dewey’s 1900 book, The No-Breakfast Plan and The Fasting Cure, in the section “Historical Notes on When, What, and How to Eat” at the end of this book.

Should You Eat Only One Meal a Day?

Mr. Wattles says that in most cases a person will not have an “earned” hunger for more than one meal per day. This might be true if your one meal is high in fat and animal protein. However, we now know that perfect health requires nutrients which in most climates are found in fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains. Also, we know that fiber, found only in plant foods, is important. Many of these foods, particularly the highest quality vegetables, are very low in calories. You would need to eat more than once per day to consume enough of these for perfect health.

As you learn to trust the “voice” of your body rather than your appetite (as described by Mr. Wattles), you will naturally want to eat what your body requires, when your body requires it. If you have never tried eating just once a day, try it. If you frequently find yourself getting so caught up in other activities that you “forget to eat”, chances are you have trained your mind to ignore your body’s needs for food, water, and even movement. Experimentation during a time of restful vacation may be the only way to discover how to listen to your body. If, on the other hand, you are in the habit of eating continuously, you also may have lost communication with your body. A fast of a full day or two may be required before you can detect true hunger.

5: See the section “Is Prolonged Fasting Safe?” in the Editor’s Notes at the end of this chapter.


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