In the year 1504, Luigi Cornaro, a Venetian nobleman in the ministry of the Pope, was on his death bed. Just 40 years old at the time, he had almost eaten himself to death. Faced with imminent death, his attending Doctor, Father Benedict advised him in the arts of natural living and undereating.
From that point on, he simplified his diet to 340 grams of food and 355 ml of liquid per day, never deviating from this undereating. The one exception to his diet program was at the age of 78 when his family insisted he increase his intake. He increased food intake by 57 grams and immediately got sick. After this he dropped down to just 227 grams of food and 325ml of liquid per day until he died at the age of 102.
When Luigi died, he died in an ideal way. He was in his rocking chair, closed his eyes, took a nap and didn’t wake up. There was no pain or suffering, indeed one of the things he wrote about in his discourses was that he had maintained robust health in the remaining years of his life and retained all his senses until the very end.
Luigi’s diet usually consisted of a “panado”, which was a vegetable soup with a little tomato, he had wine and he had bread. He used to dip the bread in the soup. He also occasionally had an egg yolk or a little red meat (he didn’t eat fish or chicken). That was his diet, far from perfect and by our modern standards we would likely consider it a “low quality” diet, yet he lived to 102 with the full preservation of all of his facilities.
Luigi’s life example certainly demonstrates the truth in the old proverb that “what we leave after taking a hearty meal does us more good than what we have eaten” but the point I more particularly want to make in this week’s post is that a even a small positive change, done consistently over time, yields great rewards.
The act of eating and drinking just enough to get by, everyday took Luigi Carnaro from his death bed at 40, to living another 62 years in good health. Certainly a vivid demonstration of the power of less.
The truth is, our bodies have an amazing ability to self-regulate, if only given the opportunity. Less is truly more.
Not only is the quantity of food needed to maintain excellent health so very small, but science is concluding more and more these days that the less we eat, the better it is to our health (as this article in last weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald demonstrates).
Our modern day health conditions are the result of excess, most particularly caused by overeating. Luigi Carnaro’s emphasis on the practice of sobriety, the art of eating in moderation, comes down to two main points; first to avoid eating more than our system can easily digest and assimilate: and second, to avoid food and drink that disagree with the stomach. Sobriety means to pay attention to the quality and quality of the foods we eat. In practice, it means leaving the table while still wanting to eat and drink more.
Whilst all of us can admire Luigi Carnaro’s dedication, the truth is we don’t have to go to anywhere near the same extremes to still gain miraculous benefits. Simply, if you were to halve the amount of calories you consumed everyday you’d be achieving most of the potential benefits. A practical, relatively easy way to achieve this is via Intermittent Fasting, whereby you basically eat only in a 7-8 hour window and thereby miss one main meal a day. The time between your last main meal and your next meal is 16-17 hours, which gives your body plenty of time to digest the food and then it has a chance to do some house keeping; in this rested state the body regenerates and heals.
Whilst naturally it’s important that we make good food choices for our health, perhaps to a large extent we can still “have our cake and eat it too”, if only we eat far less calories overall? After all, modern science tells us now that a body in the “fasted state” is a body that is slowing the process of aging, it’s healing and it’s rejuvenating. Science aside though, in the end who could argue with Luigi Carnaro who was quoted as saying that “the less he ate the better I felt” and “Not to satiate oneself with food is the science of health”.
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Aaron Travers is author of “The Boda Fast – a three step plan to lower inflammation, maximise fat burning and restore vitality”. Aaron writes at www.thebodacleanse.com.au and shares his ideas and experiences on health and wellbeing from his personal life and through working with clients clinically and those doing his “supported fasting” programs. Every Friday he sends out his newsletter, click below to subscribe.
How to Live 100 Years, or Discourses on the Sober Life – Luigi Carnaro (1464-1566)
Spiritual Nutrition, Gabriel Cousens, M.D, 2005 – Chapter 22, Undereat!