Dr. Graham’s Advice

ECHO underway, posted Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The turkey has been devoured. (Perhaps the giblets, too. But we’re not inquiring.) The peas and potatoes have been dispatched with dispassion. That extra “just a half slice” slice of pumpkin pie was happily polished off, and you push back your chair with delight and, well, admit it: dyspepsia.

Connecticut native Sylvester Graham (1794-1851), an advocate for temperance, vegetarianism, and breadstuffs made with unrefined flour (lending his name to graham crackers), suggested the following as a remedy for overeating:

If at any time, however, an individual, in any condition and circumstances, finds that he has indulged to excess in the quantity of his food, let him take warning from the first indications, and immediately retrench; or if he has already gone so far as to have brought on unpleasant symptoms of indigestion or other difficulties, such as acidity of the stomach, eructations [belching], headache, or pain in any other part, or a general langor and disquietude, let him lose a meal, or even fast a day, and always after such a fast return to his usual meals with great caution, eating very lightly for a day or two; and in this manner, with proper exercise, he will throw off every unpleasant symptom, and prevent disease. Acidity of stomach may always be completely relieved in this way; and so may almost every other disagreeable and painful feeling and disorder, if taken in proper time.

Graham was also a proponent of the then-popular “science” of phrenology. In his 1849 Lectures on the Science of Human Life, Graham explained that the “organ” of Alimentativeness was located behind the ear (marked with a “2” on the image of a mapped phrenological head), and that it was the “instinct that prompts us to take food.” Located between “immediately under acquisitiveness [10] and before destructiveness [3],” Alimentativeness is affected by humans’ desire to acquire as well as ability to, as Graham understood it, take action against what may be harmful.

In other words, diet.

From Sylvester Graham, Lectures on the Science of Human Life (1849), 259.