This article is part of our Stupid Diet Series, therefore we do not recommend this diet.
Horace Fletcher was not a dietician or a doctor. He was an art dealer. But when he was declined health insurance because of his obesity he created a dramatic new diet, and it helped him to lose the 40 pounds he didn’t want to be carrying around.
What was his secret? He claimed that if you chewed each piece of food 32 times (once for each tooth) and then not swallowing it. His logic was that the body would ingest most of the nutrients contained in the food, without taking in the bulk of it (think of a piece of chewing gum after you’ve been at it for an hour).
As stated above, the idea was that if you chewed food for a while and then spat it out, rather than swallowing it, you’d absorb most of the nutrients but without taking in any of the ‘bulk’ of the food, and thereby losing weight while still maintaining a relatively healthy diet.
Unfortunately for followers of Fletcher, the man appears to have been a real-life, genuine crazy person. This was, of course, the early 1900s, so people would believe just about anything. In fact, he claimed that chewing food properly before eating (or not eating it) would not only make you stronger, healthier, faster, more sophisticated and much more intelligent.
It later turned out to do none of these things.
What’s In It?
There are no dietary prescriptions for the Fletcherization method, or diet, or whatever you want to call it. You simply don’t actually swallow everything, but chew everything thoroughly.
Fletcher himself did not advocate not eating anything – this is a trend that’s been picked up since his death in 1919. He did advocate chewing everything very thoroughly and there may actually be something in this. Obviously, if you do not chew things properly your stomach will not be able to digest them properly, and you’ll pass them without getting proper nutrition from them.
Who’s On It?
Nobody takes Fletcherization seriously these days, although it does resurface on the blogs of minor celebrities from time to time. Fletcher himself was hailed as a dietary visionary and as a quack (hint: it was mostly as a quack) in his time, and he did manage to get a large number of public figures to at least agree with him a little.
Why You Might Want to Avoid It
Simply put, you need to eat some stuff in order to continue with living. That being said, it might be a good idea if we all chewed everything we ate a little bit more. You can’t really chew things too much, but you can chew them too little. This will probably have an impact on your general health and nutrient levels, but not so much on your weight loss.
While Fletcher was slated by medical professionals as a charlatan and a quack in his time, he did gain a large following and made personal nutrition something of a hobby of his. At the time it was a very imprecise science, and there is a lot to be said for the ideas he added to the very small pool of nutrition information that was going at the time.
By the time he died at age 69, however, Fletcher was in relatively good shape. This may have been because of his ‘mastication’ ideas, but it was more likely a result of a new diet plan being championed by Irving Fisher and Eugene Lyman Fisk.
This new approach to dieting took a while to catch on, however. It involved the counting of things called ‘calories’.