Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/326

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ing their appetite, it is better to reduce its capacity for mischief, by limiting the number of their daily meals. For, after all, that capacity is circumscribed by the caliber of the stomach, and, if the quality of the food is unexceptionable, there is no serious danger of a man's eating more at one meal than his system, under otherwise favorable circumstances, can dispose of in the course of the next twenty-three hours. The apprehension in such cases as to the insufficiency of one meal a day is wholly gratuitous. For more than a thousand years the one meal system was the rule in two countries that could raise armies of men every one of whom would have made his fortune as a modern athlete—men who marched for days under a load of iron (besides clothes and provisions) that would stagger a modern porter. Even here, abstinence is easier than temperance; for twenty-three hours of each day it is far easier to abstain from food (though, of course, not from water) than to begin eating and stop in time. Not one glutton in a thousand will do it. Dio Lewis recommends a limited number of dishes—"never put more on the table than you intend to eat"; but the first mouthful reawakens the passion of Polyphemus, and for those who can not govern their appetite it is just about as easy to call for another dish as to reach for another plateful. But it is an excellent rule to prolong the pauses between the several dishes of a full meal, in order to give the stomach time to indicate the real wants of the system. "The ingestion of food," says Dr. Carpenter, "can not at once produce the effect of diminishing the feeling of hunger, though it will do so after a short time, so that, if we eat with undue rapidity, we may continue swallowing food long after we have taken as much as the wants of the body require."

The origin of the glutton-habit can often be traced to the mistaken liberality of a host who constantly urges the conviviality of his young guests, or even to the fatuous tenderness of nursing mothers, who so frequently think it their duty, as Dr. Page expresses it, to make a baby "guzzle till it is ready to die with fatty degeneration."

Begin with reducing the number of daily meals, and exercise, a change of climate and of habits will by-and-by help to subdue the baneful penchant. Occasional relapses can not be avoided; but the progressive relief from a number of the worst gastric afflictions will at last induce the veriest cormorant to stick to the one-meal plan.

The best time for that one meal is the end of the working-day—4 or 5 p. m.—when business-cares can be laid aside for the rest of the evening. Asthenic dyspeptics, too—all, at least, who are not completely masters of their own time—had better choose that hour for their principal meal. No other hygienic mistake, not even the stimulant-fallacy, has done so much to make ours a dyspeptic generation as the fatal habit of after-dinner head-work—severe mental labor in the study, the school-room, or the counting-house, at a time when the whole strength of the system is claimed by the digestion of a heavy