• U.S.

Medicine: Fletcherizing

3 minute read

Eat somewhat less but eat it more Would you be hearty beyond fourscore. Eat not at all in worried mood Or suffer harm from best of food. Don’t gobble your food but “Fletcherize”

Each morsel you eat, if you’d be wise. Don’t cause your blood pressure e’er to rise By prizing your menu by its size.

This little lyric was the popular expression of a fad which made famous its founder, Horace Fletcher, some 20 years ago. John D. Rockefeller took it up and provided a prose version of its message: “Don’t gobble your food. ‘Fletcherize,’ or chew very slowly while you eat.” For a time wealthy mothers counted their children’s jaw beats at the table while ragged micks in the streets threatened to “Fletcherize” their little enemies. Gradually, the fad died because people were too lazy or too busy with other things to give the required 45 strokes to every mouthful. One still sees the last adherents to Fletcherism, nervous and deliberate oldsters, attacking their soft boiled eggs with sly and dreary routine.

Apparently no one attempted a scientific and personal controversion of Fletcherism during the period of its maximum popularity. In fact it was not proved foolish until last week when one Dr. Harold G. O. Hoick, an instructor in physiology at the University of Chicago, announced the results of a four-and-a-half-year test which he had made upon himself. For two and a half years he ate like a pig, whenever he wanted and without undue mastication. Then for a year and a half he became a Fletcherite mincing his mouthfuls with bovine perseverance but not enthusiasm. After that, Dr. Hoick entered another control period of gluttonous and careless chewing, which lasted a half year.

During his Fletcherizing interval, Dr. Hoick found that his calory intake per day dropped from its previous 3,200 to 2,800, a condition probably due to the fact that so much munching made his mouth tired and reduced his appetite. His weight declined 30 pounds. His muscular endurance sank far down, as did his basal metabolism, and his efficiency upon the typewriter. His blood pressure, pulse, temperature, sleeping time, and ability in mental multiplication remained unchanged by Fletcherism. The only beneficial effect he found in Fletcherism was a marked increase in his ability to solve chess problems.

It is sad to contemplate what the effect of Dr. Hoick’s words must be upon the few remaining Fletcherites. Unaccustomed to normal mastication, these fastidious trenchermen will swill too much and too abruptly and die off in short order. Not so John D. Rockefeller who, unmoved by fads and always conservative, will continue to chew his food soberly and slowly in a modified adaptation of Horace Fletcher’s preposterous method.

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