Weight And Good Feeling

Probably the most important single condition for the maintenance of

good health and good feeling is the carrying of weight normal for

the height and age of the individual, or slightly in excess of normal.

Popular expressions contain many proofs of this. The proverb "laugh

and grow fat" is undoubtedly due to the recognition by all the world

that stout people are nearly always laughers, and as a consequence,

perhaps placing the effect for the cause, laughing has been regarded

as a factor in putting on flesh. [Footnote 27] There is no doubt that

the exercise for the diaphragm afforded by hearty laughing, with the

stimulation of the intra-abdominal circulation consequent upon

vigorous diaphragmatic movements, is an important element in producing

a healthy state of the important organs of the human economy contained

within the abdominal cavity. Dr. Abrams in his book, "The Blues,

Causes and Cure," attributes this disturbing condition of depression

so familiar to those who have much to do with nervous patients, to a

disordered blood and nerve circulation in the splanchnic area, and

calls it scientifically, splanchnic neurasthenia. This undoubtedly

sums up one important element in the causation of a great many

depressive conditions. Most of them are banished by frequent hearty

laughter which, with its exercise of the diaphragm, tends to stimulate

splanchnic blood vessels and nerves.

[Footnote 27: Those who are interested in fossil words will find many

curious confirmations of the connection between weight and good

health and good humor. A typical illustration is the word buxom,

derived from the German biegsam, which means "ready to obey," from

the original significance of being ready to bend, that is bendsome.

In our day it has come to have quite a material rather than an

ethical significance. A buxom woman is one who is round and full of

form and while she usually also is cheerful and tractable, the two

ideas are not necessarily connected. It is curious that what was

originally the obedient wife should now have become the stout and

healthy wife, as if stoutness and healthiness were somehow

inseparably connected with the preceding idea so that gradually one

portion of the meaning was lost sight of and now only the physical

significance remains.]

Thinness and Discontent.--In general, it is well understood that thin

people are likely to be more gloomy and discontented than those of

stouter build. The pessimists of the world have usually been lank and

lean. Shakespeare, in "Julius Caesar," has the great Roman declare

that he likes not "the lean and hungry Cassius," and that "discontent

is bred in such bodies." The issue shows his prophetic power.

Discontent with life is much more likely in thin people than in stout.

Most suicides are under-weight. Where nutrition is under the normal,

digestion is sure to be poor because the digestive organs themselves

suffer even more than others from lack of food, apparently giving up

some of their own substance at the call of other tissues; sleep is

nearly always disturbed, constipation is almost the rule, and muscular

action becomes distasteful. While in our day we hear much of people

overeating, the nervous specialist finds that many of his patients are

undereating. These patients grow out of many discomforts,

dreads, and symptoms that often seem, even to the physician, to be due

to organic change, when they take on enough weight to relieve them

from the incessant calls for more nutrition to which insufficient food

has made them subject.

Physical Disadvantages of Thinness.--There are many dangers that go

with thinness besides the tendency to that irritability of the nervous

system which we have come to associate with neurotic symptoms. It has

long been known that a person who is under weight is much more likely

to contract tuberculosis than a normal individual. From carefully

selected statistics, the large insurance companies have determined,

that it is far more dangerous to insure a man who is twenty pounds

under weight and who has no family heredity of tuberculosis than to

insure a man with a family history of tuberculosis on both sides of

the house, provided he is well up to or above the normal weight, and

is not living in special conditions of danger from contagion. It is

contagion and not heredity that plays the most important role in

tuberculosis, and the element that is still more important is that of

vital resistance. Every adult of thirty years or over has probably at

some time had tuberculosis, for traces of its presence are found in

the bodies of all adults who come to autopsy. Seven-eighths of the

human race are, however, able to resist, and among these seven-eighths

by far the greater proportion are those who are above normal weight.

Of course, this matter of the relation of normal weight to good health

did not escape the acute observation of the old physicians.

Hippocrates, to take the first and greatest of them, realized that

while excessive eating and drinking was serious, there were many

people who suffered from not eating enough. One of his aphorisms runs,

"A slender and restricted diet is generally more dangerous [manifestly

he means to both the well and the ill] than one a little more

liberal." He appreciated, too, the fact that while the old may

restrict their diet with more or less impunity, this practice may be,

and indeed is likely to be, more serious in young people. He has

marshaled the ages and stated the effects of a low diet on them very


Old persons endure fasting most easily, next adults; young persons

not nearly so well, and infants least of all, especially those who

are of a particularly lively disposition.

Discomfort Due to Lack of Fat.--Many of the vague discomforts of the

internal organs seem to be due to a lack of fat cushions round them,

and fat blankets to keep them from being too much subjected to the

vicissitudes of external temperature. Anyone who has noted in a series

of cases the difference between the condition of patients suffering

from a slightly movable kidney when they are well up to weight, and

when, on the other hand, they are considerably reduced in weight, will

have the significance of the first of these conditions brought home

very clearly. Most of the people who suffer much from cold in winter

are greatly benefited, as might be expected, by a blanket of fat. It

is rather easy to grow accustomed to carrying ten additional pounds of

fat when ten additional pounds of clothes would be an insupportable

burden. Some fat people are prone to complain of the cold. These are

not the plethoric but the anemic. This latter class often have a

sluggish circulation, besides a lack of hemoglobin. As a consequence

of this their oxidation processes are slow and imperfect, and

this is one of the reasons for the over-accumulation of fat. The

healthy individual with normal heart and normal blood-making apparatus

will always be ever so much more comfortable with a reasonable

panniculus adiposus and fat cushions and coverings for the internal


Muscular Weakness and Discomfort.--There are a number of pains and

aches occurring in lean persons that are due to nothing else than the

weakness of muscle consequent upon the poor nutrition of their

muscular tissues. Muscles which do not receive as much nourishment as

they should, must necessarily be weak, and if asked to do much work

they will resent it. Ordinarily it is not realized how much work is

required even for such common muscular efforts as those that are

needed to hold the body erect, or to keep it in a stooping position at

a definite angle, or to move around on the feet.

I have seen patients lose their aches and pains, and become quite

capable of standing weather changes and ordinary hard muscular labor

without discomfort, simply as the result of a decided gain in weight.

All that was needed was the persuasion to eat more, and especially to

eat a full breakfast, the meal likely to be neglected. In some

persons, appetite will only return after the correction of

constipation and insistence on a certain amount of outdoor air every

day, not necessarily exercise--for bus riding or the open cars are

excellent appetizers.

Eating Enough.--It is very difficult to persuade some people to eat

enough! They have all sorts of excuses. They rather pride themselves

on the fact that they do not eat much. Persons who are twenty pounds

under weight will calmly tell you that they do not need more than they

eat. They are actually in debt to that extent to their tissues, yet

they are persuaded that they are paying nature's claims in full.

Sometimes the excuse is that they have heard, or read, of how much

harm is done by overeating; they have taken to heart the phrase that

people are digging their graves with their teeth, and so they are

actually cultivating the habit of undereating instead of allowing

their instinct for food to manifest itself. Many are found to be

following the good old saw of getting up from the table hungry. The

inventor of it is not known, but quite unlike the inventor of sleep,

it would have been a great blessing if he had kept it to himself by

patent right.

After a time habit for these people becomes second nature, and it is

hard to get them to eat enough. When people undereat it is the

digestive organs that, in my experience, always suffer the most. As a

consequence, the appetite decreases because of gradually acquired lack

of vitality in the digestive system, its nutrition having been lowered

by drafts upon it from other portions of the body. Quite contrary to

what is told in the old fable, the stomach apparently is not selfish

and does not keep the lion's share for itself. The decrease in the

amount of food brings on a decrease in digestive power.

Weight for Height.--The physician who wants to help patients by

suggestion must keep before him weight tables for height, as they have

been determined by statistics. When people are under weight, it

matters not what they may be suffering from, improvement will come if

they are made to gain in weight. To be able to show them that they are

considerably below the normal and to point out what this probably

means in lack of surplus energy, suffices of itself to make many

people understand the necessity for effort in the matter and to

give them a strong suggestion as to probable relief of their symptoms.

The following tables are the best-known averages for men and women:


15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-59 60-64 Combined


4' 11" 111 113 115 117 119 119 122 125 128 126 118

5' 0" 113 114 117 119 122 122 125 128 130 129 120

5' 1" 115 116 118 121 124 124 128 131 133 132 122

5' 2" 117 118 120 123 127 127 132 134 137 136 125

5' 3" 120 122 124 127 131 131 135 138 141 140 128

5' 4" 123 125 127 130 134 134 138 142 145 144 131

5' 5" 125 128 131 135 139 139 143 147 149 148 135

5' 6" 128 132 135 139 143 143 146 151 153 152 139

5' 7" 132 135 139 143 147 147 150 154 157 155 143

5' 8" 136 140 143 147 151 151 155 158 161 160 147

5' 9" 140 144 147 151 155 155 159 163 166 165 151

5' 10" 144 147 151 155 159 159 163 167 170 169 155

Combined 123 126 129 132 136 136 139 142 145 142 133


The average shoes of the average woman will raise her about 1-1/2 to 1-3/4



15-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-59 60-64 65-69

5' 0' 120 125 128 131 133 134 134 134 131

5' 1' 122 126 129 131 134 136 136 136 134

5' 2' 124 128 131 133 136 138 138 138 137

5' 3' 127 131 134 136 139 141 141 141 140 140

5' 4' 131 135 138 140 143 144 145 145 144 143

5' 5' 134 138 141 143 146 147 149 149 148 147

5' 6' 138 142 145 147 150 151 153 153 153 151

5' 7' 142 147 150 152 155 156 158 158 158 156

5' 8' 146 151 154 157 160 161 163 163 163 162

5' 9' 150 155 159 162 165 166 167 168 168 168

5' 10' 154 159 164 167 170 171 172 173 174 174

5' 11' 159 164 169 173 175 177 177 178 180 180

6' 0' 165 170 175 179 180 183 182 183 185 185

6' 1' 170 177 181 185 186 189 188 189 189 189

6' 2' 176 184 188 192 194 196 194 194 192 192

6' 3' 181 190 195 200 203 204 201 198

Correction of Underweight.--Underweight is undesirable for many

reasons, and gain in weight is often the solution of many problems in

ill feeling. It is well to bear in mind that most patients who are

under weight can be made to gain in weight by an appeal to their

reason and by proper directions and care in seeing that those

directions are carried out. Patients have told me that they could not

eat more and yet I have been able to persuade them that they must eat

more, and they have done so. Anyone who has much to do with

tuberculous patients knows that utter repugnance for food can be

overcome by will-power, when it is once made clear to the patient that

they must eat if they want to live. The most interesting event

in the process is that with the increase in the amount of food taken,

instead of the appetite becoming more and more satiated, as patients

are likely to anticipate, and instead of the repugnance for food

growing, the appetite grows stronger, and the repugnance gradually

disappears. There is only one way to gain in weight; that is by eating

more than one has been accustomed to eat. Persons who are twenty

pounds under weight ought easily to gain three pounds a week, half a

pound a day, if seriously intent on doing so, but in order to do this

they will probably have to increase the amount they eat by double this

quantity. That means that a solid additional pound of food, quite

apart from the watery elements of the food, must be taken every day.

In the correction of under-weight details are all-important. Patients

must be given specific directions as to what and how much of the

various foods they should take. With regard to supposed idiosyncrasies

against such nutritious substances as eggs, milk and butter, enough is

said elsewhere to make it clear that, as a rule, these are merely pet

notions, beginning in some unfortunate incident and cherished until

they have become a mental persuasion strong enough to disturb the

digestion of these substances. What is true for quality of food is

true also for quantity. People must be made to understand that the

amount of food is to be increased. The results attained by this method

are well worth the efforts required for it. Of course, the bitter

tonics, especially strychnin and cinchona, will do much to help. Just

as soon as patients begin to gain in weight many of their neurotic

symptoms leave them. Their tired feelings are no longer complained of

and when they are up to normal weight they are quite other

individuals, both in good humor and efficiency.

If for years patients have been eating less than they should, then

they will have discomfort when they begin to eat more. They will have

no more discomfort, however, than would be occasioned if they took

more exercise than they had been accustomed to. The stomach and

intestines must be gradually accustomed to the new task of disposing

of more food. Unfortunately, the usual impression among these patients

is that discomfort in the abdominal region, by which they mean any

sense of fullness, proceeds from indigestion, and indigestion

signifies developing dyspepsia with all the horrors that are supposed

to go with it. In reality the slight discomfort which comes from

increased eating is usually not manifest whenever the patients are

occupied with something reasonably interesting. After a time the

organs will become accustomed to it, and then the discomfort will


Nervous Patients.--One of the strongest suggestions that we have in

our power for thin nervous patients, suffering from many and various

ills, is to have them gain in weight. Many of them will be found to be

distinctly under weight for their height. They insist that they cannot

eat more, that they are eating as much as they care to, and that they

have no appetite, that when they eat more they have discomfort, etc.

It must be made clear to them that their one easy road to health is to

gain in weight. If they are under weight this makes a very definite

purpose to put before their minds. The objection so often urged, that

they come from a thin family, must not be listened to. The unalterable

purpose to make them gain in weight must be insisted upon. If they can

be made to eat more than they have been eating before, they will

surely gain in weight. To see themselves gaining in weight is a daily

renewal of the suggestion that they will be better when they get up to

their normal weight. It is much better than electricity or the rest

cure, or anything else that I know; it is perfectly natural and, above

all, because it may be made an auto-suggestion, it does not leave the

patient after a time dependent on anyone else.

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