Past Views On One Meal A Day (OMAD)

“Eating once a day is angelic, twice a day human, and three, four or more times is bestial.”
~Le Menagier de Paris, The Parisian Household Book, 1393

“Oru velai sapta yogi (if you eat once you’re a yogi);
Rendu velai sapta bogi (if you eat twice you’re a hedonist);
Moonu velai sapta rogi (if you eat thrice you’re a patient).”
~Traditional Tamil wisdom

“And there are men to be found who take but one meal a day, and yet remain quite healthy. The elder Fowler, the phrenologist, is one of them. Such, too, in past years, were Talleyrand of France, and Mr. Taliaferro of Virginia. It is even stated that some of the old Romans ate but one meal a day. Seneca, though worth an estate of $15,000,000, taught the doctrine, and, as it is said, practised it.”
~William Andrus Alcott, 1859

The Laws of Health:
Or, Sequel to The House I Live In

by William Andrus Alcott

SECTION XI. — EATING TOO FREQUENTLY.

636. The question, how often we should eat, has been much agitated, especially within a few years ; and with various results. In general, however, there is a belief that we eat too often, and that a deduction from the number of our meals might very profitably be made. Many incline to the opinion that two meals a day for healthy adults are quite sufficient. A few go farther still, and teach that nature’s purposes are best answered by only one.

637. This subject, like most others pertaining to a connection with the appetite, has been hitherto approached in a wrong way. For, since nature, perverted as she is, ever tends to excess, the great practical question in all these matters should be, not how much we may gratify ourselves without any evil results, but how little gratification will best accord with our usefulness. Instead of inquiring how near the edge of a precipice we can go without falling from it, we should seek to keep at the greatest practicable distance. The proper question is not, Which is the worst or most dangerous road? but, Which is the best?

638. In the present instance, the true physiological inquiry should be, What is the least number of daily meals which will best answer nature’s purposes? What number will preserve us in the most healthy condition, and at the same time give us the firmest appetite, and, in the aggregate, the most pleasure? The true question is not, How often can we eat and not get sick immediately? And yet, more than this, I say, is very seldom asked.

639. Although it should be our first and highest aim to do what is best and most according to truth in all things which concern our appetites, yet we can never keep pleasure entirely out of sight; nor is it the Divine intention that we should. God has kindly united duty, interest, and pleasure; and what he has joined together should not be sundered.

640. There can be little doubt that, the more frequently we eat, the less, as a general rule, we enjoy. At present, it is customary to eat so often that we seldom, if ever, reach the point of having a good appetite; and what of appetite we have, at first, is soon spoiled. The less frequently we eat, on the contrary, even to the comparatively narrow limits of once a day, the more we enjoy.

641. But observe, if you please, I do not say God has united with our duty the highest possible degrees of immediate pleasure, but only the greatest amount in the end. There is room enough left for self-denial, or what is usually called by that name ; by which I mean, a denial of present pleasure, at least in part, for the sake of pleasure in the distance, which is greater in the aggregate.

642. There are certain physiological considerations which aid us in determining how often we should eat ; or, rather, in deter mining how often we should not eat. We have seen (551) that the process of chymification is forwarded, in no small degree, by a species of muscular motion which has a slight resemblance to the churning process among dairy-women.

643. This churning muscular motion generally continues till the stomach is cleared of its contents; i.e., till all, or nearly all, has passed out at its pyloric orifice. The time required for this varies, in the adult, from two or three to four or five hours. (558.) In children, the process, like those of breathing and circulation, is more rapid.*

644. Now, it is a law with all voluntary or willing muscular parts of the body, that they shall have their seasons of rest. But the heart is muscular, and there are muscles in the walls of the thorax to aid in moving the lungs; and then, as we have seen, the stomach is muscular. None of these, it is true, are voluntary or willing muscles. Their motion takes place with out our having much to do with it, directly.

645. Still, it is true, most undeniably true, that these parts need rest. The muscular parts of the heart and lungs have their intervals of rest, though they are short; and is not this the plainest proof that they need it? The muscular parts of the stomach, in all probability, come under the same necessity. Sometimes they obtain this rest; at others they do not. But I have spoken on this subject before. (120-122.)

646. When we breakfast at six, take a lunch at nine or ten, dine at twelve, take another lunch at three, and eat a heavy supper at six, the stomach probably has no rest during the day, and, in consequence, is so much fatigued at night, that the load which is imposed on it at six is not wholly cast off during the night, and we rise in the morning to go again the same round, and with similar results.

647. Then, again, when we rise at seven, breakfast at eight, take a lunch at eleven, or twelve, as in fashionable life, dine at two, take tea at five, and a heavy lunch of the most heavy of all indigestibles at nine or ten, we come to the hour of rest, as before, with a jaded stomach; and in due preparation for a restless and distempered night.

648. And the reward we have so richly earned is sure to be received. Our sleep is too sound on the one hand, or too much disturbed on the other. The latter result is most frequent. We toss out the night in distressing dreams, and wake the next morning to a bad taste in the mouth, a dryness of the throat, a dull headache and loss of appetite, and an unwillingness to rise, except from the most pressing necessity.

649. Such a course of life, persisted in for weeks, months, or years, will bring about, in most persons, a bad state of things in the alimentary canal, which, in its sympathies or effects, some times extends to other parts of the system. Many a tooth-ache, ear-ache, head-ache, and neuralgic attack, and not a few cold feet and sour stomachs, may be fairly charged to the errors of which I have here spoken.

650. Children, no doubt, should eat much more frequently than adults. True, their stomachs are not so strong, nor their digestive powers, though they are generally more active. But even our children eat too often, in most instances. They are trained to it from the very first. Some of them seem to be almost always eating, from morning to night. Little infants, in most instances, are even nursed or fed in the night. And the penalty is but too well known. Half of them, or nearly half, die under ten years of age; and this is one of the causes.’

561. The healthy adult who eats but three times a day, and this at regular intervals of about six hours, gives his stomach a little time for rest; and may hope to proceed on in the journey of life, at least a short time, without disease. He may indulge this hope, I mean, if other things are as they should be.

652. But three meals a day for an adult, whatever may be his habits or circumstances, — except in the rare case of some peculiar disease, — is the maximum number which is admissible. It is running as much risk as we can with safety. It is going as near the edge of the precipice as we can and not fall from it, instead of taking the highest and safest and best road!

653. They who take but two meals a day, especially during the short days of winter, not only give their digestive powers — their stomachs in particular — more time for rest, but actually enjoy more, and find themselves in better general health. Of this habit we have many eminent living examples. In this case the first meal might be profitably taken at ten o’clock in the forenoon, and the second at four in the afternoon.

654. And there are men to be found who take but one meal a day, and yet remain quite healthy. The elder Fowler, the phrenologist, is one of them. Such, too, in past years, were Talleyrand of France, and Mr. Taliaferro of Virginia. It is even stated that some of the old Romans ate but one meal a day. Seneca, though worth an estate of $15,000,000, taught the doctrine, and, as it is said, practised it.

655. It is even told of, Mr. Taliaferro, that he went still farther. When by any unavoidable circumstance he was unable to dine at his usual hour of the day, he deferred it to the next day. This was to eat only once in two days. But this course I think an error. Once a day is the minimum or smallest needful number of our meals.

656. On this point, however, I wish to be understood. I do not say, positively, that three meals a day are incompatible with the maintenance of tolerable health; nor that one a day is sufficient. But I do say that more than three are injurious ; that two would for most persons be preferable to three; and that one for most people may after all be found adequate to every purpose. Indeed, I am inclined to think it would be so.

657. They who take but one meal a day secure at least one important point, that of having always a good appetite. At least they gain this point provided they do not eat too much at this one meal. Most persons, as we have seen, eat so often that they never know what a good appetite is. They always eat before they are truly hungry, in a physiological sense; and hence know neither the blessing of a good appetite or of true gustatory enjoyment.

658. They remind me of a half-idiot, whom I knew in early life, who was always pressing the question, ” Don’t you wish to know the art of never being dry ? “that is, thirsty. ” Always mind to drink before you are dry,” he added, “and you will never be dry.” We have most of us already made a faithful application of the fool’s rule to our eating. We eat always be fore we are hungry, and hence are never hungry.

[Questions. — Is there not a general belief abroad that we eat too often! Have we arrived, as yet, at a settled opinion on this subject?]

SECTION XII. — EATING BETWEEN MEALS.

659. In the last section I was obliged to encroach a little on the topic assigned to this. I was obliged to allude to the evils of eating too often; and this of course involved the subject of eating between our meals, or, as it is called, of taking lunches or luncheons. But I have not yet said all that the case requires. Eating between our regular meals is a dietetic transgression of no ordinary magnitude.

660. Whether we eat once, twice, thrice, or ten times a day, we should stop with our regular meals, Nothing containing nutriment, whether in a solid or liquid condition, should go down our throats between our meals, except water. To this rule, so far as the healthy are concerned, I know of no exception.

661. May we not eat an apple, it will be asked, or a little fruit, of such kinds as we happen to meet with, or a few nuts? Must we go without all these things, which the kind hand of the great Creator has scattered all along our path — probably not in vain? Would we not be even ungrateful to him, did we do so?

662. No doubt that these things, for the most part, are made to be eaten, either by us or the other animals, or both. But they should be brought to our tables, and, without exception, made a regular part of our meals. Not indeed at the end, after we have eaten enough of something else; nor yet at the beginning, merely to excite an appetite for other food. They should be eaten, as the potato usually is, as a part of our meal.

[Have we not studied the subject in a wrong manner? What is a better way? What should be the true inquiry in prosecuting the study of hygiene? In our inquiries is pleasure to be overlooked, entirely so? Why not? Is our enjoyment in eating in proportion always to the number of our meals? Is he the greatest gainer in point of mere pleasure in eating, who gets the most pleasure immediately?

What are we to infer, in this particular, from the muscular character of the stomach? How may we eat so as to give the stomach and other digestive organs no rest? What are the frequent evidences of abuse during the previous day? What diseases may ensue? Should children eat oftener than adults? What is said, in particular, of the effects of eating three meals a day? What of eating two only? What of eating but one? Are there some eminent examples in both these latter kinds? To what extreme did Mr. Taliaferro go? Who are they that always have a good appetite? What anecdote is related of a certain idiot? What is the application?]

663. It may perhaps be said that our ancestors — puritannical though they were — accustomed themselves not only to lunches in the forenoon and afternoon, but to nuts and cider or apples and cider in the evening, and yet were a healthier people, by far, than their more squeamish descendants; and there will be no want of truth as the basis of the remark.

664. But, remember, that if they were more healthy than we, then we, of course, are less healthy than they. How came we thus? Is it a matter of chance, or hap-hazard? Do these things spring out of the ground? Is there not a cause for every effect? Do we not inherit a deteriorated and deteriorating constitution?

665. Besides, our fathers and grandfathers set out with better constitutions than we, so that, whatever may have been the cause of their better or our inferior stamina, they could most certainly bear up longer under violations of physical law than we, their descendants. It does not then follow, as a necessary inference, that we may eat lunches because they did.

666. May we not take nourishing drinks between our regular meals, such as milk and water, molasses and water, and bread coffee? some will ask. Not a drop. Better, by far, to eat a piece of dry bread; for that will be masticated. But you do not want either. The sediment of nutritious drinks (561) is one of the hardest ordinary things the stomach has to contend with. It is, moreover, a curious fact that a piece of dry bread, well chewed, will often quench thirst better than any liquid, even water. But, I repeat, I do not recommend even that.

667. Anything that contains nutriment must, of course, set the stomach and other digestive organs at work, more or less; even if it is nothing but a strawberry, or a lump of gum or sugar, or some aromatic seeds. I do not say or believe that it takes as long, or tasks the digestive machinery as severely, to work up a lump of sugar or a strawberry into chyle, as a full meal; but I do say that the whole process of digestion, complicated as it is, must be gone through with.

668. Many, who have listened patiently to remarks like these, have at length exclaimed, with some surprise: “But what is the laboring man to do, especially in the long hot days of haying and harvesting, without something to sustain him be tween his meals? You proscribe stimulating drink, and very properly; but what will you propose as a substitute? He, would faint away without something. Or, if he should not faint, there would often be a gnawing at the stomach, which would be insupportable.”

669. It should be distinctly known to everybody, that neither the faintness nor the gnawing here spoken of, indicate any real hunger. They are mere nervous sensations. They indicate, moreover, a diseased condition of the nerves. If any one doubts, let him but make the following experiment. The writer has made it for himself, and that repeatedly.

670. While your fellow-laborers are removing, for the time, their gnawing and faintness by a lunch, just seat yourself at their side, and, instead of adding a new load to the already overloaded and sympathizing stomach, drink slowly a small quantity of pure water, tell a story or hear one, and, if you can, excite a little the risible faculties; and when they return to their labor, join them, as before. Pursue this course a few days, or a few weeks, and see who endures it best, and com plains most of gnawing and faintness.

671. It is no uncommon thing to hear farmers telling how glad they are to be through with their haying and harvesting. But it is they who use lunches, or take other means beyond their regular meals for restoring themselves temporarily at the expense of the future, who complain most. He who eats of plain food twice or three times a day, and drinks nothing but water, endures best the heat and fatigue, and suffers least from gnawing and faintness.

672. Young men in groceries, eating-houses, and inns, as well as clerks in public offices, and in shops and factories, often injure their health very much by a foolish acquired habit of tasting various things which are constantly before them, such as fruits, nuts, confectionery, sugar, dried fish, cordials, etc. Clerks, in addition to all this, sometimes eat wafers.’

673. It is but a few days since I saw a young man about thirty years of age, of giant constitution by inheritance, who was suffering severely in his digestive machinery from the very cause, by his own voluntary confession, of which I am now speaking. And I have before my mind’s eye the painful history of a young man whom I twice cured of dyspepsia from this same cause, but who afterwards went beyond my reach, and fell a victim to it.

674. Perhaps the worst violation of the law which forbids eating between meals, is found in the wretched habit of the young, of eating what are called oyster suppers, at late hours and at improper places. Our cities, and sometimes our large towns, abound with places of resort for those who will not deny their appetites; and it is not surprising that they so often prove, not only a pathway to the grave, but as Solomon says, to hell.

SECTION XIII. — REGULARITY IN EATING.

675. There are to be found, among us, a few strong men and women — the remnant of a by-gone generation, much healthier than our own — who can eat at random, as the savages do, and yet last on, as here and there a savage does, to very advanced years. But these random-shot eaters are, at most, but exceptions to the general rule, which requires regularity.

676. For very few things, I am quite sure, can be more obvious to the most careless observer, than that those individuals who are most regular in regard to eating, other things and circumstances being equal, are the most healthy. And, what is of very great importance, too, any one who will take the trouble may soon satisfy himself that it is these regular men and women whose children inherit the best constitutions.

677. I have, indeed, admitted that we are so far the creatures of habit that we can accustom ourselves to almost any hours for eating, and to one, two, three, or more meals a day, as well as to many other things which are generally regarded as objectionable; and yet not suffer much, immediately. But I have also shown and insisted that this does not prove we are wise in forming these habits. We must look a little way into the future, and have regard to the good of the race, as well as to our own present gratification or happiness.

678. It is often said that since the conditions of civic life require occasional irregularities, it is desirable to accustom our selves to such irregularities, betimes. For, if we do not, it is still insisted, we shall be liable, at times, to such derangement and disturbance in our systems, from unavoidable changes, as might subject us to a long and perhaps severe fit of sickness.

[Questions. — Is eating between our meals a light transgression? Should nothing which contains nutriment be swallowed between meals? May we not eat fruits? Why not, if the fruits are made to be eaten? Our ancestors ate lunches; why may not we? What is said of milk and water, molasses and water, etc., between meals? Must the whole work of digestion be gone through with, when we eat but a single nut, or a strawberry? May not the hard laborer have lunches? What then shall we do, when gnawing and faintness arise? Have these sensations nothing to do with real hunger? What experiment is proposed? To what dangers are young men sometimes exposed in groceries, shops, eating-houses, public offices, etc.? Are they apt to yield to the temptations? What case is related by the author? What still more striking case came under his observation? What is the worst violation of the rule for infrequent eating?]

679. This reasoning, by way of objection to the doctrine of regularity in our habits, is certainly specious. The great difficulty with it is, that it is practically untrue. For few things can be more easily shown than that they whose digestive systems hold out best, are precisely those who are most regular in their habits of eating, drinking, etc.

680. It is indeed true that such persons, when subjected to the supposed necessary irregularities of civic life, above alluded to, may be subjected, at times, to a little temporary disturbance, but it quickly passes away. Does not this prove the general integrity of the digestive function? No condition of the human stomach is more to be dreaded than that unresisting state which permits us to make it a complete scavenger for the time; while the abuse awakens slowly, in some remoter part of the human confederacy, a terrible insurrection, and still more terrible retribution.

681. I knew a physician who, at home and abroad, with others, and especially with himself, passed for a wise man. Yet, unable to resist the temptations incident to the life of a country medical practitioner, he gradually fell into the utmost irregularities about his meals. For his morning meal he had no appetite; at the dinner hour he was among his patients, eating at any hour convenient; or, oftener still, refusing to eat at all.

682. On returning to his family, — often late at evening, — , his faithful wife, who knew his habits and expectations, was accustomed to prepare for him as rich and as abundant a meal as possible, of which he almost always partook in excess. But the penalty of his trangression was fearful. Disease, painful and harassing, early followed; and, though blessed with an “iron constitution ” by birthright, he sunk into the grave at sixty-five.

683. The history of this man is, in substance, that of thousands. I have myself witnessed twenty years of the most in tense anguish, ended by a premature and terrible death, which was the obvious result of physical disobedience. The penalty, it has repeatedly been said, does not always fall directly on the suffering organ or function, but sometimes on a part in sympathy with it.

684. It may, to many, seem strange, but it is nevertheless a fact, that they who are most regular with regard to their habits of eating, — whether as it regards times of eating, quality of the food, or quantity, — are the very persons who suffer least, as a permanent thing, when compelled to occasional changes or interruptions of their accustomed habits. Or, if they suffer, the suffering is but temporary. Their stomachs are stomachs of integrity, and their promptitude in meting out justice, and putting to rights injurious tendencies, is as striking as their integrity.

685. Locke, the philosopher, has somewhere told us that when a child asks for food at any other time than at his regular meals, plain bread should be given him — no pastry, no delicacies, but simply plain bread. If the child is really hungry, he says, plain bread will go down; if not, let him go with out till he is so.

686. But why give him anything at all between his regular meals? These, to be sure, should be somewhat more frequent than our own; but this is not to make concessions to irregularity. Is it not truly marvellous to find the best of men — those who in many things have thought for themselves — still yielding to authority when arrayed against the plainest good sense?

687. It is very unfortunate for human health and happiness that the young should be trained from the very first — and to a most lamentable extent — in the way in which they should not go. They are very tenacious of life, — are made to live, — and yet, presuming on their known tenacity of life, we only make them the greater sufferers on account of it. I have known many a child, swept away by summer and autumnal diseases, who, but for his past irregularities in eating, might very probably have escaped.

688. That to train up a child in the way he should go, in every particular, is exceedingly difficult, every parent, master, or guardian well knows. Forbidden trees, on which hang curses, beset everywhere the path of human life, especially that broader division of it which, alas! so many of us travel. How to have our children escape all pitfalls and dangers, — how, even, to escape them ourselves, — is a question not by any means easy of solution ; but its importance is at* the least equal to its difficulties.

689. I wish the young could fully understand that every time they depart from their accustomed usages, and, during the intervals of their meals (be the latter few or many), venture on a little fruit, a little candy, a little confectionery, etc., they are not only impairing their appetite, and contaminating their blood, but impairing the tone of their digestive system, and deranging the action, more or less, of the whole alimentary canal.

690. Every well-directed effort to invigorate the alimentary canal, and increase the tone of that and the greater internal surface of the lungs, is richly repaid in future hardihood and health; while every neglect, or disregard — everything disloyal to the calls and demands of Nature’s conservator — is repaid in near or remote suffering, and perhaps transmitted to yet unborn generations.

SECTION XIV. — EXCESSIVE ALIMENTATION.

691. Nothing is more common than the remark that the greatest dietetic error is with regard to quantity. It is admitted that we often err, as regards quality; that we eat irregularly; and that we eat too fast. And yet the great practical error, after all, we are told, is, that we eat too much.

692. There is truth in the remark, as the subject must necessarily be viewed by those whose standard of hygiene is still low. And yet, bad as excessive alimentation may be, it is but the natural — I had almost said necessary — result of certain errors lying back of it. If the quality of our food, and the modes of preparing and receiving it, and the moral tendencies of our nature, were such, from the very first, as they ought to be, there would be comparatively little among us of excess.

693. The common doctrine of intelligent men is, that we eat about twice as much as nature’s best purposes require. Philosophers, physiologists, chemists, pathologists, dietiticians, and even many of the unenlightened, all agree in this. Not of course that every individual eats twice as much as he ought; but that, as a people, here in the United States, this is true.

694. Most persons, it would seem, eat just about as much as they can and not suffer from it immediately. The inquiry with most who inquire at all, is not how little is best for them and how much they can save, beyond this measure, for “him who needeth”; but how much they can consume, without loss of health or character as the consequence.

[Questions. — What is said of certain random-eaters among us? Are they whose habits of eating are most regular, usually the most healthy? Must we have regard, in the formation of our habits, to the good of our race? What very specious objection is sometimes made to these views and doctrines? Why is it unsound? Relate the anecdote of a medical man, and tell me what it is designed to prove. Is this man’s history substantially that of thousand ? What has the philosopher Locke said? Wherein is he mistaken? What is there especially unfortunate in an early training? Do all our dietetic errors, especially our irregularities in regard to eating, tend to derange the action and motion of the alimentary canal? What important hints does this afford in the education of the young? What equally important hints does it afford to the self-educated?]

695. In truth, the declaration of eighteen hundred years ago, that all seek their own, not another’s (or others’) good, covers the whole ground. To get good and apply it to the gratification of our own propensities, whatever may become of others, is fallen nature’s great law, As John Foster has well said, this not caring for others is the very essence of human depravity.

696. It is frequently asked how much we should eat; and some are unsatisfied till we put in requisition the scales, and tell them exactly how many pounds or ounces they must take, daily. I have even dined, in the city of Boston, with a man otherwise respectable, who had his scales on the table, and proceeded to weigh out, before me, his dinner.

697. Of course I do not intend to question the propriety or the usefulness of weighing out our food, at least, occasionally. Experiments of weighing food, made by scientific or thinking men, for scientific or practical purposes, might be made — no doubt sometimes are made — quite useful.

698. Thus, in experiments made in Glasgow, in Scotland, on laborers, who, from their increased expenditure during their exercises, are very naturally supposed to require as large a supply of food as any other class of men, it has been found that two pounds of good bread, daily, or six pounds of good potatoes, (which in point of nutriment are deemed about equal to two pounds of bread,) is the largest quantity demanded or required.

699. President Hitchcock, late of Amherst College, and Mr. Graham, have taught that the average quantity of nutriment which the best development and support of the body require, is somewhat less than this. They, too, have made their conclusions from observation and experiment. The former would reduce the British standard quantity about one-fourth; the latter, nearly one-half.

700. Much allowance, in this matter, must be made for early training, as will be seen in the next section. I once had the pleasure of sustaining, at college, a most deserving young man, who could not get along, as he believed, without two pounds of bread, or its equivalent, daily. But he had been trained to excess; and for the time seemed to demand it. However, he exhausted his physical capital in a few years, and died bankrupt!

701. Are there, then, you may be disposed to ask, no specific rules for the individual, about quantity? Must we gather up, from abstract or general principles and from facts, a code for ourselves? Like the new-fledged arithmetician at school, must we make our own rules? Is experience in dietetics every thing, and science nothing?

702. Not quite so fast. I have given you the deductions of science already. It has determined, no less surely than experience, that we eat too much. It has told us what is the maximum quantity required. What the minimum or smallest quantity we really need is, we have not yet inquired. And most persons do not choose to make the inquiry, lest they should have to resist, a little, their propensities.

703. To those who have moral courage enough — in other and better words, enough of Christian philosophy — to dare to make the inquiry, a few rules may be given which will enable them to approximate towards the truth in the case, by seeking an answer to the inquiry: How little can we get along with, and at the same time best discharge all our duties and secure all lawful and proper interests?

704. We have been taught, in time past, to leave off hungry; or, as some express it, with a good appetite. Or, as others still, are wont to say, we have been told never to eat quite enough. The rule is a good one, as far as it goes. I have known a few who partly observed it; and they believe they owe to this partial obedience their health and life.

705. Thus, Grant Thorburn, whose writings, over the signature of Laurie Todd, have interested and delighted many, and who, at the age of ninety, or nearly so, is almost as young in his feelings as ever he was, is accustomed to say to his friends that he never ate enough in his whole life.

706. Early in the year 1852, I called to see a man in Ohio, who was eighty-seven years of age. It was one of the severest days of a most severe winter. He was in the woods, at work, for he was a farmer; but he soon came home. Surprised at his power to labor and endure the cold, I inquired about his habits; and, among other things, asked him about the quantity of his food. His answer included just such a statement as that of Mr. Thorburn.

707. Cases of this kind might be multiplied, not, however, to an indefinite extent; for, most unhappily, the world as yet does not abound with them. I will only add to the list, at present, John “Williams, a Baptist minister of Rhode Island, who died at the age of one hundred years or more, and myself.

708. It is quite possible to err, however, under this rule. A person who bolts his food will eat much more without reaching the point of satiety than one who does not. While, therefore, he who bolts food has not reached the stopping-place, so far as he knows, another who masticates well has reached it with far less food. The former may therefore eat too much and yet leave off hungry.

709. It is a better rule still, to eat no longer than the food appears to refresh us, bodily and mentally. This rule, I grant, is liable to the same difficulties with the preceding, nevertheless, it restricts us more. For even Grant Thorburn, who never eats enough, may possibly sometimes eat so long as to become dull in body or mind as the result. I am not without doubt whether he and my Ohio friend always leave off their meal with feelings of merriment, and with a disposition to dance and sing, like children. Yet such, as I believe, should be the effect of our eating. Its main object, I grant, is to secure nourishment for a future hour; but it has a secondary object, too, which is refreshment and gratification.

710. It is recorded of President Jefferson, that he was accustomed to remark that no man, when he comes to die, ever repents of having eaten so little. This remark would be worth more if it were true that men are apt to repent of eating too much. But the truth is, we seldom exercise any genuine repentance at all when we come to die, unless we have begun the work before. Death-beds are not the very honest places some have supposed. Men generally die as they live.

711. The early travellers among the Japanese tell us that a native of that country, especially of the interior, will work all day long on a mere handful of rice and a little fruit. Yet the Japanese are among the stoutest and strongest men of Asia ; and for size and strength almost resemble the German, the Swiss, and the Yankee. Can it be that they suffer for want of food?

712. We come back, then, from our reasonings and facts to the point whence we started, viz., to the affirmation that we generally eat twice as much as we ought, and that retrenchment is loudly and imperiously demanded. Few err on the other side. Inclination, habit, refined cookery, and the customs of society are all against it.

713. I have admitted that the laborer, as a general rule, requires more food than other men, because his expenditure is greater. Yet it does not thence follow, that he who performs two days’ work in one, and who consequently overworks him self, should eat in the same proportion, that is, twice as much. Generally speaking, if he really overworks, he should eat some what less, since the same causes which have overtasked and crippled his general system must have reduced the energies of his digestive system in the same proportion.

13 thoughts on “Past Views On One Meal A Day (OMAD)

  1. As I am fairly new to the blog I have a lot of catching up to do in regards to previous posts so I apologize if anything I say is redundant, but to expand on the frequency of meals I think there are other important factors to be considered and researched. There is a recent study (1996) by Dr. D’Adamo who proposes that blood type plays an important factor in deciding what types of food to eat, based off evolutionary adaptations and the resulting dietary habits.

    For example O blood type is the oldest of the blood types and is derived from the earliest hunter-gatherer humans that had primarily meat, fish, vegetables and fruits. Basically anything that could be harvested without any introduction of farming. This high protein diet is supplemented by the intense physical lifestyle of hunters. Blood type A begins with the introduction of a more settled lifestyle, meaning more grains, fruits, fish, legumes, primarily a vegetarian diet.

    What this means in today’s world is humans with diets that aren’t aligned with their evolutionary adaptational needs causing already poor eating habits to be even worse by consuming the wrong foods than what their bodies really require. A good metaphor is keeping a pet animal, you wouldn’t feed your pet with something not native to their diet. Like feeding chocolate to a dog which causes a deadly allergic reaction, albeit humans have a fairly high tolerance to all varieties of foods it doesn’t change the fact that we regularly consume sustenance that our bodies aren’t able to process, use and digest properly. We think of acid reflex, eating sweats, diarrhea, etc as being medical issues other than simply a “mini” allergic reaction.
    [source] https://www.4yourtype.com/

    The other practice I’m going to mention is the Ayurvedic system of medicine. To keep it brief Ayurveda postulates that humans have one of three Dosha’s (the sort of mind-body type that you are) that determine how you should live and function on a day to day basis. Each Dosha, either Vata, Pitta, and Kapha decides when you should eat, what to eat as well as your most productive, creative, restful, fatiguing, etc. parts of the day are. It’s pretty interesting and a medical practice considered to be one of the oldest in human history that is still used today. I obviously can’t do it justice as there are a lot more intricacies and complexities to the system but the core takeaway is that not only the quantity of food is important but the timing and choice of food are equally as vital to human health..

    I’m really enjoying this website and I commend you for the amount of research and effort you go through to post these. Like I said, there is a lot for me to catch up on here but I am always in pursuit of knowledge and am excited to have found a writer who maintains an open mind with an assortment of seemingly non-related posts that in actuality further validate the notion that all things are connected.

    • All of your comments are welcome and I’m glad to see you bring up other info. I’m familiar with the blood type diet and Ayurveda, but I don’t think I’ve ever written about either. My brother was into Ayurveda for a while and maybe it informed his diet at that time, although I don’t now remember the details of how he applied that theory. As for blood type, I had a copy of his first book in the mid-to-late 1990s, maybe when it first came out in 1996.

      I’m type O and I think I did sort of follow it. I also came across a low-carb book at the time, which fit with the type O diet. But my knowledge and motivation was limited at the time. I probably wasn’t doing the diet well or else it simply wasn’t working for me. It’s been too long to recall my experience back then. Anyway, I now follow a variation on the type O diet: traditional foods, paleo, low-carb, keto, etc. I focus on animal foods with some plant foods, but avoid high carb foods like grains and legumes.

      Ayurveda is interesting. As you may or may not know, I’ve been writing a lot about the ancient Greek theory of humours. At the time Ayurveda and humorism/humoralism was developing, the Indians and Greeks were in contact and much info was spreading in both directions. The two systems were part of the same developing medical thought in the Axial Age. But it’s hard to know what to make of such theories, as I don’t know how it fits in with recent scientific research. I’m sure elements, maybe even large parts of it, are valid. Many ancient societies, from Egyptians to Indians, recognized the signs of diabetes, even if they didn’t understand it fully and didn’t know how to treat it effectively.

      We are in the middle of a replication crisis in nutrition studies. That is to say that most past studies have since proven not to replicate. Simply put, they were poorly designed with inaccurate data, misleading analyses, and/or incorrect conclusions. This is problematic as almost all of our conventional beliefs about nutrition and diet have been based on extremely low quality epidemiological/observational/correlative studies that do not control for confounding factors such as (healthy and unhealthy) user effect.

      Most research has found that almost any diet is healthier than the standard American diet (SAD), but that tells us almost nothing about what is an optimal diet other than don’t eat crappy processed foods from the industrial food system. For research to be meaningful, hypotheses need to be falsifiable with clearly articulated causal mechanisms to be tested. That is what most nutrition studies have lacked up to this point. We need more and better research on all of the diets: Mediterranean, vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, paleo, low-carb/high-fat, ketogenic, carnivore, blood type, Ayurvedic, etc.

    • “a writer who maintains an open mind with an assortment of seemingly non-related posts that in actuality further validate the notion that all things are connected.”

      That made me smile. I’m glad you get how my mind operates. I may throw out all kinds of odd posts that, at first, might not always seem to have anything in common. But my brain is always seeking out the connections. I keep returning to particular topics, issues, and themes. This is more apparent the longer you spend on my blog.

      My greatest fascination is with the meeting point of the human mind/consciousness, society/culture, and embodied existence. You can see this in posts such as “The Agricultural Mind” that is a deep dive into speculation on the available scientific evidence, heavy both on the speculation and the science.

      I’m slowly taking these thoughts on diet/nutrition and tying them back into my years of writing on psychology, anthropology, bicameral mind, reactionary mind, symbolic conflation, mental health, inequality, etc. I was just thinking about how diet, like abortion, is one of the key sites of symbolic conflation. That involves a personal theory of mine that I’ve been working on for most of my blogging career at this point.

      This is why I throw out historical quotes and texts such as the above. It’s part of my thought process in creating a larger context of ideas. I’m trying to show how patterns have extended across centuries and millennia, that the concerns we have today did not appear out of no where.

      • Will definitely look back on those posts as I would like to try to stay on the same page as the most recent articles and to do that I’m sure there is heavy context I am missing at this point.

        It’s interesting to see how diet is such an integral part of our culture(s) as humans, yet we neglect the notion that poor diet can lead to more than simple health issues, it affects the mind, how we spend our time, how we socialize and probably most impactful, how we damage the environment to feed into mass production.

        • If diet is what you’re primarily interested in, I’ve been writing a lot of about that lately. I have quite a few pieces that could give you some good background. Much of this info can be found elsewhere, as I found it elsewhere. That isn’t to sell myself short, though. There is plenty in my writing that is original thought or at least I put my own personal spin on it. I make connections in the way few do.

          For example, most academics who write about the history of diets appear to be uninformed and incurious about the science of nutrition studies, while those who write about the science are mostly only aware of the recent history. In all my research so far, I haven’t come across anyone who has fully and directly made the connection between ancient dietary thought (e.g., Galen’s humorism/humoralism) and modern dietary ideology (AHA, ADA, FDA, etc), and how this was filtered through Medieval Christian theology of sin and the need for social control in order to maintain a feudal peasant class.

          Besides that, I have many posts on the more practical sides of health, including the science behind it. The issue of nutrient-density and bioavailability has been one focus. Also, central part of my thought has to do with the related issues of carbohydrates, ketosis, autophagy, and fasting. I also like to write about the history of nutrition studies in relation to key figures like Weston A. Price, Ancel Keys, Galen, John Harvey Kellogg, etc. This is largely inspired by the books from Sally Fallon Morrell, Gary Taubes, and Nina Teicholz, although it involves some of my own original research into historical texts.

          Most of all, I’ve particularly enjoyed writing about how diets, as foodways and food systems, operate as part of enculturation and social control with both intended and unintended consequences to the human mind and behavior. I have several great posts on this (they seem great to me because I find it so damn fascinating!). The culture and lifestyle of diets create particular self-reinforcing mindsets and self-enclosed worldviews, and this is part of the total social order and economic system, not to mention the role of politics and governance. This overlaps into the history of moral crises and diseases of civilization, specifically in terms of mental health and moral health.

          https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2018/12/02/ketogenic-diet-and-neurocognitive-health/
          https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/06/13/diets-and-systems/
          https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/01/30/the-agricultural-mind/
          https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/06/30/yes-tea-banished-the-fairies/
          https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/autism-and-the-upper-crust/
          https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/11/06/old-debates-forgotten/
          https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/12/04/sugar-is-an-addictive-drug/

          • I am entierly interested in diet, health and fitness which as you said overlaps into pretty much all of human history and therefor plays an integral role in understanding all other subjects. But my main area of interest falls in religion, philosophy, origins of language and culture, spiritualism, alchemy, astrology, psychodelics, qiqong, ancient mystery religions, Terrence McKenna, animism, dreams, etc.

            If it’s more clear I found your website researching beetles and stumbled upon the post about Jesus as a beetle (The one with a large list of references) a few weeks ago and have been drafting up a response to that post with what I’ve researched over the years.

            I think a big problem in today’s world is each field of study, psychology, botany, engineering, nutrition, and so on are all not allowed to cross into other fields. As you mentioned in a previous post the lady with schizophrenia who had her symptoms cleared after dieting is a prime example that fields of study are far too narrow and specific. Everything in our world is interrelated and keeping an open mind is paramount in not only learning about our species and the world but to live as best we can with eachother and nature.

            I don’t want to come off as being of the mindset that anything in antiquity is automatically better than the contempary, but I do think we have forgone a lot of important history that is vital to humans. An interesting example is the ancient chinese practice of feng shui (geomancy) which specifically was used to help decide how to orient and where to build your house to allow for the maximum amount of the earth’s energy to flow through. Its fascinating to see, what modern science calls superstition, beliefs that put so much care into every specific part of life. I think that is something as a society humans have lost that leads to so many malpractices of eachother and our environment.

            This comment is a bit scatterbrained as I am in a rush, but I guess the takeaway is I am interested in any post you make as it all is important and will try to comment and discuss the issues. Also thanks for the links, it helps.

          • “But my main area of interest falls in religion, philosophy, origins of language and culture, spiritualism, alchemy, astrology, psychodelics, qiqong, ancient mystery religions, Terrence McKenna, animism, dreams, etc.” In that case, you should feel right at home here. I have plenty of topics about much of that kind of thing. Of what you listed, the only two I haven’t written much about is alchemy and astrology.

            “I found your website researching beetles and stumbled upon the post about Jesus as a beetle.” That would be one of the many examples of an odd post I throw out, just because something caught my curiosity. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but the religious symbolism fascinated me. It seemed like a mystery to be solved, not that I quite figured out what was going on with certain older texts in speaking about it.

            “each field of study, psychology, botany, engineering, nutrition, and so on are all not allowed to cross into other fields.” That is where someone like me comes in. In being mostly self-taught, I have little formal education. And I have no career or reputation to protect. I can speculate wildly based on what I read. No academic, mainstream journalist, successful author, etc could likely get away with what I do. It’s not allowed. Besides, there is no profit in it. No one would want to promote such crazy ideas or in any way be associated with it. That is the freedom I have as a nobody and it makes me happy.

            “I don’t want to come off as being of the mindset that anything in antiquity is automatically better than the contemporary, but I do think we have forgone a lot of important history that is vital to humans.” That is fine. I’m all about studying the past. I don’t doubt there is plenty we can learn from ancient cultures and still existing traditional societies, along with the practices and systems that have developed over millennia. I am a radically skeptical person with a strong bullshit detector, but I wield that equally to the modern world as to the ancient world, to the scientific as to the religious. I was raised in New Agey woo and so I’m extremely tolerant in entertaining all kinds of strange thought, including the likes of Terence McKenna.

            Anyway, welcome aboard! Explore and comment in this blog as it pleases you. I’m always game for dialogue, as long as it is meaningful and interesting, which basically includes anything other than trollishness and bigotry (e.g., zero tolerance for racism). Almost anything is fair game, but I do have a dislike of disrespectful argument, critical negativity, badgering complaints, and confrontational belligerence. I just want to dialogue with a basic level of mutual understanding, curiosity, and intellectual humility… and preferably with a good dose of radical skepticism and radical imagination. Life is too short for anything else. My sense is that you’ll fit in just fine.

          • By the way, I have many posts on entirely other topics, if you ever get bored with my thoughts on diet, nutrition and health. Besides Jungian and Myers-Briggs typology, one early interest of my blogging had to do with Christian origins, Gnosticism, Mystery Religions, comparative mythology, monomyth, mythicism, astrotheology, etc. Astrotheology, as you might or might not know, overlaps with astrology and shows how various cultures and religions thought about their place in the world and how it shaped the stories they told.

            In recent years, I have spent more time exploring topics like linguistics, especially linguistic relativity, and consciousness studies — another area that overlaps with so much else. Have you read anything about Julian Jaynes’ theory of bicameral mind and consciousness? Now that is fascinating stuff and it is another topic where I’ve put out some long, detailed exploration of evidence and ideas. You might enjoy my perspective on that kind of thing, as it is one of my favorite areas of contemplation about the strangeness of humanity.

            One way or another, history and historical texts often come up, especially the modern period from the 17th century to early 20th century: enclosure movement, English Civil War, American Revolution, Reconstruction, Populism, Progressivism, etc. Thomas Paine is maybe my singlemost favorite historical figure. I’ve also written widely on race, ethnicity, and regional culture; and that also deals a lot with history but aspects of it involve science as well, from genetics to epigenetics (e.g., transgenerational trauma).

            My writing tends to go all over the place. After a while, my interest will be caught by something else and I’ll write less on diet and such. But no doubt it is something I’ll continue to return to. I previously found a way to connect my theory of symbolic conflation to Jaynes’ view on consciousness, along with the studies of consciousness, linguistics, metaphor, and metonymy. Having brought diet into the discussion of the past centuries of recurring moral panic, I want to bring put my thoughts on diet into that context of symbolic conflation, which is about how a social order maintains itself within the human body-mind.

        • I should give credit to certain people whose work helped me to see certain connections. Belinda Fettke, the wife of persecuted Dr. Gary Fettke, discovered that the Seventh Day Adventists invented veganism and were among the greatest forces in shaping modern American dietary thought through funding nutrition studies. I combined that information with Gary Taubes having pointed out how mainstream dietary scapegoating precisely falls in line with Christian theology of sin, that of gluttony (overeating) and sloth (lack of exercise). Christian culture has been shaping science, but this has remained hidden in plain sight and no one in the mainstream talks about it.

          Then I read Eden and Albala’s scholarly book on the history of Christian beliefs and practices of diet, from the Medieval Christianized revival and reinterpretation of Galenic humorism/humoralism to the modernized vegetarian/vegan movement in late 19th century Christianity. Having read about that, I suddenly realized that the recent obsession with limiting protein with the idea of increasing lifespan was simply putting a rationalizing spin of pseudo-science on top of the old Galenic thought that was filtered through feudal society and modernized particularly by the Seventh Day Adventists. The rhetoric that one hears from some dietary experts now is the exact same rhetoric lifted out of documents written in the Middle Ages. It is the exact fucking same rhetoric! That blew my mind.

          Scientists had internalized Christian theology without realizing it and the puritanical streak in American culture has simply been secularized while, through politicization in official food policies and dietary guidelines, retaining its power to control the way we think and behave. Dietary ideology and food systems as social control is as true now as it was during feudalism. The only difference is that the ruling elite during feudalism openly stated the purpose was social control. The present ruling elite are less honest and forthright or else less self-aware. Religious dogma has been repackaged as dietary dogma and oddly it is some of the most non-religious of Americans, the plant-based political left, that has most strongly embraced this new dietary religion.

          Worse still, the typically anti-corporatist and anti-capitalist left has been manipulated by cynical forces in aligning their interests with big ag and big food (see the big biz interests behind EAT-Lancet). Environmentalism has been hijacked by corporate PR and they’re using to promote industrial processed foods (e.g., Beyond Burgers) that are dependent on industrial agriculture with its chemical-drenched, soil-destoying monoculture. But somehow the cows are to blame, in spite of the fact that there are no more ruminants in the world today than in the past. A sense of moral crisis has led to moral panic and has been turned into a moral crusade, with the sense of anxiety being exploited by the very big money interests that are the main cause of the problems we face.

          It’s a masterful sleight-of-hand trick where the guilty party is made to magically disappear from public view. It’s not industrial agriculture, mass transportation, oil spills, toxic dumps, pharmaceutical industry, mining, etc that is polluting the world and destroying ecosystems. No, it’s the cow farts. The absurdity of it is heartbreaking. But there is some hope in that a few people have begun to pull back the curtain to show the powerful forces of concentrated wealth pulling the levers behind the scenes.

          • That is a good connection between medieval and modern diet and Christianity with huge implications on culture and health. I know companies like Coca-cola actively promote exercise as a means to a healthy lifestyle, yet push their own product, soda being one of the most detrimental foods for humans, not to mention all the trash is creates for the environment. It’s that type of marketing strategy that’s used globally by cooperate and political businesses to create demand while hiding the negative effects.

            It is disgusting and not only are cows being blamed for CO2 emissions but they have to live in their own waste in overcrowded factories. A Russian farmer had the idea of putting a VR headseat on a cow, showing it video of grassy plains and sunny hills, in order to increase the cows happiness and reduce anxiety resulting in better yield.

            I haven’t ever thought of the sort of modern day feudalism that exists today and it really puts things into perspective. Christianity really did plunge the European world into the dark ages around the time of the decline of the Roman Empire and their perverted world view of hierarchies and man’s domination and stewardship over nature led to the world we have today(around 1 billion humans are catholic and over 2 billion are some denomination of Christianity) At least in terms of the western hemisphere of earth there is no way one can study science, culture, arts, history without understanding Christian influence in it all. Ironically most Christians don’t even understand their own religion or it’s origins or its crimes and atrocities committed to humans for the benefit of a select elite and not their made up deity.

          • The whole cow fart thing is the weirdest. There used to be vast herds of buffalo that stretched from horizon to horizon. Yet somehow their farts never caused climate change.

            That is because cows don’t produce carbon. They get it from plants, it goes up into the atmosphere and the plants draw it back down again. It is natural cycle that is carbon neutral. This cycle has been going on for hundreds of millions of years. The cows don’t put out more than they take in. And over the last half century, the cattle industry has greatly decreased its environmental impact. If we went regenerative farming, cows would not only be carbon-neutral but a net loss to the atmosphere because it would draw down excess.

            Dr. Shawn Baker makes a good point about carbon emissions. Look at vegan, vegetarian, and other plant-based diets pushed by corporate interests, such as EAT-Lancet. They are unhealthy. Research shows that vegans and vegetarians don’t live longer than people on other diets. Instead, they have higher rates of health problems such as infertility, a major sign of malnutrition.

            EAT-Lancet, in its own report, states that it’s diet is not safe to eat for anyone at risk: the young, the old, the poor, the sickly, etc; basically most of the world’s population shouldn’t follow the EAT-Lancet diet that they are advocating the whole world should eat, and if they do they will suffer for it. So, such “plant-based” diets would increase the need for sick-care such as pharmaceuticals, which would worsen the environmental problems as well since sick-care is one of the largest producers of carbon emissions.

            It would make more sense to put people on a healthy diet based on what humans were evolved to eat, in any of its variants of lower carb, no industrial seed oils, etc: traditional foods, paleo, primal, keto, carnivore, etc. Decreasing people’s need for sick-care would do the greatest reduction in carbon emissions. And that is what we’re seeing wealth these diets. People are getting healthier.

            The keto diet, for example, has been shown to reverse even serious diseases, not only epileptic seizures as it originally was researched for but also advanced multiple sclerosis and advanced Alzheimer’s. No drugs and no other diet have been able to reverse the symptoms of advanced multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s, but the keto diet has. That is just one small part of benefit. The keto diet, along with other lower or zero carb diets, has also shown improvements in numerous other health conditions: autoimmune disorders (besides multiple sclerosis), metabolic syndrome (obesity, diabetes, fatty liver, heart disease), mood disorders (depression, anxiety), etc.

            Yet the experts who work in the sick-care system warn against such diets. And the corporate interests are merely pushing a plant-based variant of high-carb standard American diet (SAD) consisting of processed junk food that made Americans sick in the first place. The big ag, big food, and big transportation that this corporate-friendly diet is dependent upon produces far more carbon emissions than cow farts, especially from cows raised through regenerative farming. Even with factory farming, there are ways of reducing the small percentage of carbon emissions they produce by adding certain things to their feed, but it is largely irrelevant since cows are such a small part of the carbon emissions in the first place.

            All of this is distraction and the shifting of responsibility. It’s basically shoving the problem back onto consumers, as if it isn’t the system itself that is the problem. No, corporatocratic capitalism is fine, so says the corporations and those who benefit and are funded by the corporations. It’s similar to how the powers that be push for private citizens to do their part by recycling, but the reality is that household trash is a fraction of a percentage of waste that could be recycled. A bigger impact would be had by passing a law forcing corporations to reduce their waste output, but that won’t happen because corporations own our government. We are sold an ideology of customer-citizenship, as if we’re going to save the world by buying the right products and being responsible consumers.

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