"The Quest for Health and Beauty." by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
MacFadden Physical Development (January 1912): 61-65.
Provided Courtesy of David Horne.
The Quest for Health and Beauty 
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

   It is refreshing to have one so favorably known in the worlds of art and literature as is Ella Wheeler Wilcox, speak plainly on the tendency--fortunately fast disappearing--to regard health as an unattainable ideal, and ugliness and weakness as afflictions to be borne uncomplainingly.  As she has well said, health, like happiness, lies within one's self rather than afar off. I am certain our readers will find much that is worth of note in the statements we publish from the pen of this gifted writer.--Bernarr Macfadden.

It is beginning to be understood that it is not good form to talk about one's ailments; and a few people have advanced sufficiently to grasp the uncomplimentary suggestion, which is contained in an admission of sickness. We virtually own up to the fact that we have been self-indulgent, weak, indolent, or criminally indifferent to the laws of Nature, when we confess to being ill! Why should we boast of such a condition?
   Sometimes this confession dates back to other lives; before we came upon earth for this present incarnation; but more frequently can the cause of our maladies be traced to the present era, if we carefully examine our thoughts and actions.
   In a not far distant time, sickness was looked upon as a mark of special distinction.  But a more intelligent religion has come into the world; and it is understood that one may possess health, and wealth, and still have a fair chance to wear a crown and play upon a harp in heaven; and that one may be sick and poor, and have no one but himself to blame for it, and in no way entitled to divine compensation for having broken Nature’s laws.
   Scores of maladies which of old were regarded as incurable are now known to yield to rational treatment; and the word “Incurable” should be stricken from the dictionary of progressive practitioners.
   Especially should this name be forbidden in hospitals.  The words “home for incurables” brand an institution with hopeless suggestions, which are in themselves poisons to the mind, and which are very often proven to be misnomers, by the recovery of the inmates who have sufficient will-power and courage to rise above all obstacles and live.
   During the last year, a young man who had been an inmate of hospitals for ten years with a complication of “incurable” maladies, and who was praying for death, received some books written by authorities on metaphysical subjects, wherein he read 

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of the power of the mind to overcome adverse conditions.  The young man became deeply interested, and in a letter written by him three months after the books had been read, he said: “Life has assumed new meaning; my physical condition has changed in the most surprising manner, and I seem to be on the road to health and usefulness once more, after believing myself hopelessly incurable.  The days which I dreaded as they came I now anticipate with pleasure.”
   This is one of the many proofs which show how foolish it is to give up hope, even after learned specialists have declared our condition incurable.  There are in these days so many methods of regaining or improving health that one has a large variety from which to choose.
   Having observed numerous people who have experimented in all the different methods (and having myself tried many of them), I am convinced that it is less the cure than the attitude of mind with which the cure is met wherein lies the result.
   Two women desiring to reduce weight began a diet, and exercises at the same time, under care of a trainer.  One woman said she knew the exercises and diet would do her no real good. She was “born with a tendency to take on fat,” and it was useless to try; but she was doing it just to oblige her husband, who wanted her to reduce.  It was a sacrifice on her part, and he would see how useless it was.  The other woman went into the physical culture diet, and exercise, with an enthusiasm which actuated her in all things.  She said she knew she was to bring her weight down twenty pounds; and that her health, her powers of enjoyment and her complexion would all benefit from the small sacrifice of time and effort.
   At the expiration of six weeks, the first woman had lost just five pounds; the second twenty-one.  Each said, “I told you so,” and proved by so saying how much assistance is given by the mind to the effort of the body in all these physical culture experiments.
   One might ask if the same effect would have been attained by merely thinking health without trying any special method.  But so we might ask if one could keep alive by thinking food, instead of partaking of it.
   While we live in a body which must be sustained by food, and kept clean by bathing, while we are obliged to assimilate and eliminate sustenance, by natural organs of the earth body, we must AID OUR RIGHT THINKING BY RIGHT ACTING.
   The one idea to keep uppermost is the fact that the thinking does more than one-half the work.
   Most of us tire of any one kind of food and of any one color and style of dress continually used.  It is beneficial to us mentally and physically to change our food, our dress, our location, occasionally.  Nature changes her costumes four times a year, and tillers of the soil find it necessary to give alternating foods of different kinds of crops to the soil, in order to bring forth its best yield.  One year wheat, another corn, one year clover, another oats
or barley, and so on.  Therefore it seems to me there is nothing unreasonable in human beings trying different diets, cures and exercises in order to keep in the best condition.
   But there is utter nonsense in imagining one must go to some far-away and expensive health resort, or sanitarium, in order to be well.
   Health IS ALWAYS NEXT DOOR TO US, IF WE WILL LOOK FOR IT.
   The only reason it is not housed under our roof is because we have turned it out, to make room for indolence, intemperance, worry, anger, sorrow, idleness, or ignorance.  Absolute health will not long stay in the same house with any one of these.
   But it never goes farther away than next door; and stands ready to come back, if we make a very earnest effort to give it room and board.  It is a sad, and at the same time an amusing thing, to find how many intelligent and self-respecting people make a shrine of the stomach and worship it as the ignorant masses of the Orient worship some of their dreadful looking idols.
   We are told that the Orientals do not worship these idols; they merely worship some idea which the idols represent.  Just so, we may say, that it is the idea back of this organic idol which people worship; the idea of momentary enjoyment of the food or drink taken into the mouth, like St. John’s little book, which is sweet in the mouth and bitter father down.
   I have on my desk at this moment a letter from a brilliant man who has been suffering miseries from wrong habits of eating and drinking, yet who thinks life would not be worth living were he to submit to a month’s milk diet, or a fast of forty-eight hours followed by three weeks of rice or prune or raw-food diet. 
   Any one of these simple and sane experiments would bring the man back to a normal condition; a condition on which he could build permanent health.  Yet he is appalled at the very thought.
   There are hundreds of such people in the world, thousands indeed, and there are thousands more, who are willing to pay any price, and go to any trouble to purchase some magic remedy or do some extraordinary thing to get well—to reduce or to gain—but who will not do any one simple thing every day for twenty minutes in order to produce the same result.
   A young man of my acquaintance who won a prize for being the most perfect specimen of health and symmetrical development of many contestants, explained his method of arriving at such a condition from one of invalidism, with which he started.
   “I simply gave up stimulants; alcohol, tea, coffee, cigarettes, meat, and I practiced gymnastic exercises and deep breathing twenty minutes every day—ten in the morning, ten at night.”
   But he did these exercises every day, and for many months, untill the months exceeded a year.
   It seems a small price to pay for perfect health and splendid development.  Yet there is not one invalid in ten who is ready and willing to pay this price.  This man had smoked immoderately; he had eaten ignorantly, and without regard to nourishing his body, think
ing only of the taste of what he ate.  He had used a small percentage of his lung cells in breathing; and the result was a complication of diseases.  Yet he cured all these alone, without expense, by persistent common sense methods.  And he became not only well, but a remarkable specimen of physical development.
   A woman who found herself losing her beauty and symmetry by an accumulation of useless fat, resolved to regain her charms.  She ate no bread or bonbons or potatoes.  She drank nothing at her meals; she took only two meals a day—masticating her food slowly and finding less food necessary in consequence to satisfy her appetite.
   She took a course of physical culture by correspondence; and in three months she was back to her girlhood weight and beauty.  She might have achieved it without the course of correspondence if she had selected a few exercises and been persistent in their use.
   Other women who could produce the same result by the same effort prefer to go away to sanitariums and pay large prices; and to return home and to their flesh-pots and their old condition after a few months of self-indulgence.
   They are wedded to their idols. Let them alone.
   Just as different colors suit different complexions and different fashions are becoming to contrasting types, so all people are not benefited by the same diet or baths or exercises.
   The was a physician who did not take this fact into consideration.  He believed whoever was ailing lacked exercise in the open air.  That was his prescription for everyone (with, of course, certain drugs and lotions added, to make reason for his bill).  And great was his surprise when one patient informed him he was a postman and walked twenty miles a day.
   Had the physician been worthy of his name he would have diagnosed the case as one needing rest and good nourishment—a vacation and plenty of sleep.
   I know a vegetarian who has written books on the subject; but he is so anemic and emaciated I long to have him take three months of meat diet; until he can show a good contour and color, and be a better example of the benefit of the vegetarian diet.  He is a warning at present.
   The time will come when a good, tasty, satisfying substitute for meat will be found for such types; but so far this man, who has made the matter a heart-felt study, has not discovered it.  Of course the majority of ailing people would be better to drop meat from their diet.  Many persons are benefited by cold baths; but there are those who are harmed by them; and it is folly to insist that they should take their drastic treatment whether or no.
   One very hot bath a week is usually enough for any one, and one glass of hot water a day taken inwardly.  Nature never intended that we should boil ourselves within or without.  Cool water seems to have been provided for our uses. Not ice cold, not hot.  No animal drinks while eating, but afterward or between meals.
   In some things, we should study animals and adopt their rules.  But we must recollect that we are possessed of many qualities which distinguish us from
animals, and therefore we are able to differ from them in many habits; especially in the control of our persons.
   Are you ill, faded and weak?  Health, beauty and strength are next door.  They are yours for the seeking.  But the search must be persistent, patient and sensible.
   There is no excuse for any woman, however busy may be her life and how many her duties, there is no excuse for her neglecting the care of her health or beauty.
   The methods of keeping the laws of health and beauty are so simple and require so little time, if properly observed every day, that it is merely a matter of will and an overcoming of indolence to practice them.
  Any one can breathe deeply a hundred times a day.
   It can be done on the street, in bed, or when attending to household duties.  Close the mouth, inhale slowly, filling the center of the lungs first, then the abdominal region, then the upper chest.  Exhale slowly.
   It is well to take five minutes before rising in the morning, or after retiring, and lie flat with no pillow, breathing alternately through one nostril and exhaling through the other, and then reversing the process.
   Hold the breath while counting seven, and thinking mentally that the breath so retained is going to vitalize whatever portion of the body seems weak or ailing.  Hold both nostrils closed, while the breath is retained.
   To keep on the feet, standing or walking about slowly after eating, is another simple law which aids digestion and helps retain the symmetry of the body.  We must remember that the human being was constructed on a plan which pre-supposed his standing or moving about a large portion of the time.  To sit the larger portion, especially with tight or heavy clothing dragging on the intestinal organs, is most unnatural, yet those who are obliged to sit can hold the body alert and keep the mind active in a way which will counteract much discomfort and many ills.
   It is the sagging of the body and mind which induces maladies.  A few gymnastic exercises which bring every organ into play can be taken while dressing and before retiring.  They require very little time.
   Internal baths of tepid water and olive oil, taken once in seven or eight weeks, are excellent cleansers; especially for people who are hearty partakers of food.
   Olive oil made fragrant with violet water rubbed over the body and joints twice a week is most beneficial.
   After the bath the face may be sponged with warm, soft water.  A good cream should follow; then an ice rub, using a piece of ice the size of a walnut, and rubbing until the face is cold and all aglow.
   If facial gymnastics come next, improved personal appearance and beauty development must result, unless an unhappy mind or a disagreeable disposition counteract the treatment.
   No woman need grow corpulent if she will control her appetite and use her will-power and take systematic exercises for reduction.  Health, beauty and symmetry all lie in the power of each human being; but, like everything else worth having, they must be obtained by toil and patience.

Provided Courtesy of David Horne.