Placing the average weight of an adult man at one hundred and forty-four pounds, the average daily amount of food and drink needed would be six pounds, or about one-twenty-fourth the weight of his body. Food should be taken in sufficient quantity to repair the waste, and no more. Most persons habitually eat and drink more than they need, while a few eat less than they should. Those who lead very active lives, or live much in the open air, require more food than the old, the inactive, and the sedentary. Habit, too, has much to do with the quantity of food taken. Over-indulgence in eating is the fruitful cause of a long train of evils. The appetite is pampered by tempting viands, and the stomach is overtaxed with work. The sensation of hunger is Nature’s demand for food; the lack of such sensation should suggest abstinence.
Economy of the life forces requires that each person should strive to find out just how much food he requires to support his strength and repair the waste. One ounce more than is required is a triple waste,—a waste in the original cost, a waste of muscular force in digesting it, and a waste of nerve and vital force in getting rid of it.
The proper quantity for each person to take is what he is able to digest and utilize. This amount of various with each individual, at different times. The amount needed will vary with the amount of work done, mental or muscular; with the weather or the season of the year, more food being required in cold than in warm weather: with the age of an individual, very old and very young persons requiring less food than those of middle age. An unperverted appetite, not artificially stimulated, is a safe guide. Drowsiness, dullness, and heaviness at the stomach are indications of an excess of eating, and naturally suggest a lessening of the quantity of food, unless the symptoms are known to arise from some other cause.
We should eat to live, not live to eat. More people suffer from over-eating than from eating too little. Many thin people are large eaters, and stout people are often small eaters. The young generally eat more than the old. Not only are their powers of digestion better, due in part to the great amount of exercise they take, but they need food for growth, as well as to repair the waste. Franklin’s prudent rule was to leave off eating with a good appetite.