Friday, July 8, 2011

THE WAY TO LIVE - (Circa 1908) - Chapter 5 - NUTRITION - By George Hackenschmidt

I come now to the much discussed subject:

What Ought We to Eat?

I believe I am right in asserting that our Creator has provided food and nutriment for every being for its own advantage. Man is born without frying-pan or stewpot. The purest natural food for human beings would, therefore, be fresh, uncooked food and nuts. It is not my intention here to discuss the old problem, whether meat is necessary as food for man or whether man was created and should remain a vegetarian. My experience has taught me, that foodstuffs are of secondary importance. There are very strong people who are strict vegetarians, whilst others eat a good deal of meat. A fare which consists of three-quarters of vegetable food and one-quarter meat would appear to be the most satisfactory for the people of central Europe.

Every one should and can find out which diet best suits his constitution, and he should avoid all food which disagrees with it. I would shun altogether all highly seasoned and sour dishes. Much has been said lately in praise of sugar as food, but as artificial sugar is an acid-forming substance, I should not recommend it. Natural sugar, such as contained in dates, figs, and other fruit, is certainly preferable. Highly flavoured or seasoned food produces thirst and therefore acts harmfully.

How Much Should We Eat?

I maintain that it is absolutely a mistake to eat great deal. Excess is harmful, as all food which the stomach only partly digest, transforms itself in the stomach or in the intestines into poisonous matter, which in time sets up bodily decay. It is true that to a certain extent digestion improves as muscle strength increases, but even in such cases the progress may not be sufficient for a thorough assimilation of the extra food.

The disadvantages of meat foods are, in my opinion, in the first place, that nowadays it is most difficult to obtain meat from absolutely healthy animals ( I count those artificially fed in stables and pens among the unhealthy ones), and, secondly, that far too much flesh food is taken.

In the case of pure vegetable food, excess is less dangerous. All food, with perhaps the exception of pure vegetables, which certainly form the ideal human food, deposits drossy sediments in the body, which may be removed by four channels; the lungs, the skin, the kidneys, and the intestines. If these four channels are in good working order, the man is healthy.

The Principal Food for Man is Pure Air

Partake of it as much as you possibly can, breathe much, and as deeply as you can, through the nose. Breathing through the nose is the only proper way of respiration and at all the same time an important regulator for the movement of the body, for, if for any kind of work the breath through the nose ceases to be sufficient, one ought to either discontinue the work or restrict the movement until breathing has again become normal.

Various deep breathing exercises are recommended by professors and other so-called authorities on Physical Culture matters.

Not wishing to be dragged into any discussion I will refrain from critising these, and will confine myself to strongly recommending all my readers to content themselves with the simplest and most natural deep-breathing exercise in existence. One which every one can practise, without trouble, and which requires no argument to demonstrate its superiority over all others.

This consists simply of running exercise in the open air. Run as much as you can and as often as you can, and whenever you come across a hill, run up it. This will force you to inhale deep breaths and will also accustom you to breathe through your nose. Besides the chest and lung development resulting therefrom, you will soon appreciate the benefits which your leg muscles will derive.

I cannot lay too great stress upon the great usefulness of proper breathing, by which means we introduce into our system the essential oxygen and discharge a quantity of waste matter.

The skin of most people is in a very neglected state. In consequence of unsuitable clothing or imperfect cleansing of the countless pores, the poisonous residues cannot be expelled through the skin. These impurities consequently accumulate in the region of other outlets, such as the kidneys; if these are in good order, the function intended for the skin may be in part performed by them, but if this state of things continues, kidney disorders are sure to appear, just as skin disease will come if the kidneys and intestines work badly, and then the patient generally and foolishly tries to cure or improve the skin with salves or cosmetics.

For these reasons it must be obvious that running is a far more satisfactory breathing exercise than the mere filling and emptying of the lungs before an open window, the accompanying exertion compelling the discharge of these impurities in the form of perspiration. An important item of physical culture, indeed, is a regular care of the skin. One or two weekly baths and daily rubbing of the whole body are necessary. As to the temperature of the water, you must use your own judgment. He who dives into cold water or takes a cold douche when he is hot, or perspiring, suppresses forcibly the action of the pores and exposes himself to illness. As we are all more or less the opposite to hardy, such violent attempts at "hardening ourselves" act detrimentally on our health. Swimming is very useful, but I should not advise a longer stay in the water than one quarter of an hour at a time, as the temperature of the body becomes so low that a great amount of energy has to be expended specially to raise the warmth of the body again. When training, a cold morning bath of one half to one minute's duration before commencing will be found very beneficial. If at all possible, expose the naked body to the sun. Man is a creature of light and air, and I should therefore recommend little or no clothing when training.

What We Should Drink

In this, excess is also prejudicial, first, because on gives the kidneys more work than they were intended for, and secondly, the very important mineral salts which the body requires for nourishment are carried away by the extra liquid. According to the discoveries of the German, Julius Hensel, it is just the presence in the body of these mineral salts, such as iron, lime, sodium, phosphorus, sulfur, chlorides and bromides, which supports vital power, and if they are wanting, decay of tissue and decomposition take place. The invigorating action of sea air is partly due to the copious amounts of salts and mineral matter it contains.

A German proverb says rightly: "He who drinks and has no thirst, Or who eats and has no hunger, Unlike him whose health is first, Suffers illness and dies younger."

It is said that a large percentage of America's population suffers from weak or diseased stomachs through partaking of highly seasoned foods, or from kidney complaints through indulgence of iced drinks. It is very unwise to drink anything cold if one's body is overheated; one ought to take small mouthfuls, and swallow each only after having warmed it in one's mouth. I need not occupy space in dilating on the well-known pernicious effect of too hot liquids upon teeth and stomach.

Iron Nation
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