If dietetics is such an exact science why isn’t it possible, you ask, to keep people on a good average as to body weight?
Of all dietetic questions, the two which interest most people are: “How can a skinny person like me, get plump?” and “How can a fatty like me, get thin?”
There are a great many different answers involved in these apparently simple questions. First, as anybody can observe, there is the matter of taste. I mean gustatory taste. It has even become imbedded in a nursery rhyme. And Jack Sprat, who would eat no fat, and his wife, who would eat no lean, not only licked the platter dean but they also developed two opposite types of body build.
But the very fact that this matter of varying taste enters into the calculations shows that dietetics is really an exact science. Because in spite of all the protests from the people involved, and in spite of the invocations to the action of the ductless glands, modem dietetic science has shown that people can get plump by eating more and get thin by eating less. And especially by eating the right kinds of food.
With the overweights, we will not deal here, but we have recent proof that the proper dietetic control alone will cause the underweights to approximate a normal weight.
In a private boarding school for boys, a separate dining room was arranged and ten places set for ten boys chosen for underweight, but otherwise normal.
By giving them plenty to eat (a high calorie diet) and encouraging them to eat it, they all gained weight. Three points in the report, which is published in a well-known medical journal, are worth noting:
1. An especially rich diet did not cause a gain in weight as rapidly as an all-around “full” diet. To be particular, cream and butter were not as effective as bread, butter, milk, meat, vegetables, sugar, dessert and fruits.
2. The causes of underweight in older children are: (a) A fundamental, unexplained taste for food low in nutritive value, i. e., a boy given a chop will eat only the lean portion; (b) when underweight be-gins to be evident, nobody takes the trouble to advise the boy to eat foods high in nutritive value, naming the foods; (c) a long, thin, stoop shouldered form of body combined with over-activity in athletics.
3. It is not enough simply to bring the food to the underweight; by the aid of psychology he must be encouraged to eat more than has been his custom. Two instances: instead of making a boy proud of saying, “I haven’t eaten a creamed potato for five years,” he begins to boast of being a big, non-discriminating eater. Play on vanity; if he is robust, he will be good football material.