Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 3 (1876 - 1882)

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Manuscripts

Ms 1, 1876

Diet

NP

June 12, 1876

Portions of this manuscript are published in CD 179; CG 386-387, 399; 7MR 1-2.

Eating has much to do with the condition of our health. The vitality of our bodies is derived from the food we eat. Our object in eating should be to live. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 1

During the past season I have traveled much upon the cars, going east and west, and as I have seen how men and women treat their stomachs, it has been no marvel to me that sickness and disease is the common lot of mortals. It is a mystery to me that many live at all, seeing the way in which they abuse their stomachs. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 2

I have heard parents remark, while indulging the fitful, capricious appetites of their children by giving them spices, pickles, rich cakes, candy, preserves, chicken, and slices of cold ham covered with black pepper, “My children like these, and I let them have just what they want; for the appetite craves what the system requires.” This theory might be correct if the appetite had never been perverted. But there is a natural appetite and a perverted appetite. Children often inherit a perverted appetite. Parents who have placed stimulating food upon their tables, and educated their children to eat it until the taste is so perverted that they crave for clay, slate pencils, tea grounds, etc., cannot claim that the appetite craves what the system requires. The appetite is perverted, and the taste calls for the most stimulating, unwholesome food. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 3

Parents who are indulging a false appetite cannot make use of this theory. If their children had been trained from their infancy to eat only plain, simple food, prepared as nearly as possible in its natural state, if meat had been discarded, together with grease and all spices, which are deleterious, and should not be used in the preparation of food, the appetite might indicate the food best adapted to the wants of the system, which could be assimilated and converted into good blood. But a perverted appetite will not call for the food required by the system. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 4

The food eaten by children with whom I have become acquainted when on the cars did not make good blood or good tempers. These children were frail. Some had sores on the head, face, and hands. Others had sore eyes, which destroyed the beauty of their faces. Others, though suffering from no skin eruption, were afflicted with catarrh, difficulty of the throat, chills, and fever. Their parents were kept in continual worry and perplexity. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 5

I noticed one boy, three years of age, who had bowel difficulty. He had considerable fever. The mother seemed to think that food would help his case; and every time he asked for food, she gave him fried chicken, bread and butter, or rich cake. Another child of about ten years was suffering from fever and was disinclined to eat. Yet the mother urged her to eat this and that. Children, sick, complaining, and feverish, were urged to eat food unfit to be placed in any human stomach, even if in the most healthy condition. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 6

These children thus injudiciously treated were creatures of circumstance, made miserable because of the course pursued toward them by their parents, who must have been very ignorant of the laws of life and health. These laws should govern the appetites and passions of parents. Then parents will be fitted to educate their offspring. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 7

We were pained to hear the mothers’ fretful chiding, as they sought to hold in check the outbursts of temper exhibited by the children. But these mothers did not control themselves; how then could they expect their children, with their perverted habits, to have tranquil tempers. Both parents and children ate at irregular intervals all through the day, after eating heartily three times a day. The boy on the cars who sold cakes, candies, nuts, and fruit was freely patronized by the indulgent parents. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 8

We felt sorry for these mothers; they had such a worn, worried look, and were pictures of discouragement. I frequently heard them relating their own sufferings and their poor children’s ailments, and telling what the doctor had said of them from time to time. Many said that they were seeking a more healthful climate; for they and their children were always sick. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 9

I thought, What a privilege it would be to speak to all the mothers in the land, and tell them of a good and cheap way to recover health, without paying heavy doctor bills, or going to a far country. I would tell them that healthful food, prepared without grease or spices, would save them much expense and labor, and keep them and their children in good health, giving them also serene tempers and calm nerves. Food should be simple and should be eaten at regular intervals. If this rule is observed, the children will have no loss of appetite. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 10

After the regular meal is eaten, the stomach should be allowed to rest for five hours. Not a particle of food should be introduced into the stomach till the next meal. In this interval the stomach will perform its work and will then be in a condition to receive more food. In no case should the meals be irregular. If dinner is eaten an hour or two before the usual time, the stomach is unprepared for the new burden; for it has not yet disposed of the food eaten at the previous meal and has not vital force for new work. Thus the system is overtaxed. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 11

Neither should the meals be delayed one or two hours to suit circumstances or in order that a certain amount of work may be accomplished. The stomach calls for food at the time it is accustomed to receive it. If that time is delayed, the vitality of the system decreases and finally reaches so low an ebb that the appetite is entirely gone. If food is then taken, the stomach is unable to properly care for it. The food cannot be converted into good blood. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 12

If all would eat at regular periods, not tasting anything between meals, they would be ready for their meals and would find a pleasure in eating that would repay them for their effort. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 13

In many families, great preparations are made for visitors. A variety of food is prepared for the table. This food is tempting to those unaccustomed to such a variety of rich food. Many, ungoverned by principle, eat largely of the tempting dishes, and perhaps, as the result of that elaborately prepared meal, one or two have a run of fever. They may lose their lives. Those who care for them are worn out by anxiety and watching. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 14

In many cases the family that provided the generous meal were overworked in the effort to prepare it and suffer days and weeks of weariness. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 15

I have a knowledge of the course pursued by some who make these extra preparations for visitors. In their own families they observe no regularity. The meals are prepared to suit the convenience of the wife and mother. The happiness of the husband and children is not studied. Though such a parade is made for visitors, anything is thought to be good enough for “only us.” A table against the wall, a cold meal placed on it, with no effort to make it inviting, is too often seen. “Only for us,” they say. “We can pick up anything.” 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 16

This course cannot be too severely condemned. Who is so dear to us as our own loved ones? That food which will keep them in the best health should also be provided for visitors. As a general thing, no elaborate change should be made in the table fare for visitors. We should not have a feast one day and a famine the next. The system cannot be kept in health if this course is pursued. The stomach cannot accommodate itself to such fitful movements. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 17

In nine cases out of ten there is more danger of eating too much than too little. Some invalids who go to the Health Institute for treatment seem to think that they have no work to do in controlling their appetites. Frequently they eat double the amount their stomach can dispose of. This draws upon the vitality of the system, in order to get rid of the extra burden. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 18

There are many sick who suffer from no disease. The cause of their sickness is indulgence of appetite. They think that if the food is healthful, they may eat as much as they please. This is a great mistake. Persons whose powers are debilitated should eat a moderate and even limited amount of food. The system will then be enabled to do its work easily and well, and a great deal of suffering will be saved. 3LtMs, Ms 1, 1876, par. 19