Lessius Leonard 15541623 Flemish Jesuit and theologian

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I n 1613, Lessius wrote his account of his struggles with dieting, the Hygiasticon. This text simply repeated much of the diet reformer Cornaro's life as his own; nevertheless, it was widely translated from the Latin and often cited by those arguing for a sober lifestyle, which would assure longevity. It is still in print today.

Rescued from a world of dissipation and fat after his physicians had given him up as lost, he found the simple pleasures of sobriety and self-limitations, which enabled him to become manlier in his deeds and actions. Lessius not only mirrors the autobiography of Cornaro but also cites St. Augustine's struggle with the pleasures of gluttony as one of his main witnesses (Lessius 1742: 20-1). Lessius paraphrases him, stating that "Lust knows not where Necessitie ends," which is, for Lessius, why one may grow fat (Lessius 1742: 21). He stresses, like

Augustine, that we must all control our desire to "feast and banquet" (Lessius 1742: 85). We can do this is by imagining food as disgusting and bad smelling, for if we do not we shall certainly die, as almost all diseases come from taking more food into the body than "nature requires" (Lessius 1742: 103). Lessius continues by amplifying the arguments of Cornaro about longevity and diet, as well as echoing the theological and moral underpinnings of his text.

See also Christianity; Cornaro

References and Further Reading

Bailey, John Burn (1888) Modern Methuselahs: or, Short Biographical Sketches of a Few Advanced

Nonagenarians or Actual Centenarians Who Were Distinguished in Art, Science, Literature, or Philanthropy. Also, Brief Notices of Some Individuals Remarkable Chiefly for Their Longevity, London: Chapman & Hall.

Boia, Lucian (2004) Forever Young: A Cultural History of Longevity from Antiquity to the Present, London: Reaktion Books.

Lessius, Leonard (1742) Hygiasticon, trans. Timothy Smith, London: Charles Hitch.

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