S inclair had been living on fried foods and sweets when he was afflicted with indigestion and headaches. These ailments tended to occur when he was focused on his writing and didn't spend much time exercising. He attempted such treatments as Horace Fletcher's diet and the diets practiced at John Harvey Kellogg's Battle Creek Sanitarium (including vegetarianism). After Sinclair met a woman who used fasting to cure her and her friends' various illnesses, he, too, began fasting and became a staunch supporter. He describes the benefits of such abstention from food in his book The Fasting Cure (1911), where he also repudiated the diet claims he made in his earlier co-authored book Good Health and How We Won It (1909). In The Fasting Cure, Sinclair rejects the classic American emphasis on rich and plentiful food like "fried chicken and rich gravies and pastries, fruit cake and candy and ice-cream," seeing it as socially unacceptable and as unhealthy.
Sinclair claimed that by the second day of his first fast, he no longer had headaches, by the third stopped feeling hungry and weak, and on the fifth began feeling mentally and physically strong again. He lost 14 pounds in the first four days and 2 pounds afterwards, believing this excess weight was "a sign of the extremely poor state of [his] tissues" (Sinclair 1911: 21). He broke his fast on the twelfth day with fruit juice and Bernarr Macfadden's milk diet. After the fast, he gained the desire for physical activity, which resulted in the development of a more athletic build. Feeling the need to "prove" that fasting really worked, Sinclair included before and after photographs of himself in The Fasting Cure, and the efficacy of his "diet" was, therefore, based on his personal experience.
Sinclair is also the author of The Jungle (1906), which exposed the unsanitary conditions of the meatpacking industry. His novel was influential in the establishment of the Pure Food and Drug Act, which later led to the creation of the United States Food and Drug Administration. Given the vivid and disturbing image of the slaughterhouse presented in his book, it is of little surprise that Sinclair espoused vegetarianism, as did thousands of other Americans who read him. Later in life, he switched to a diet of broiled meat and hot water.
Today, there are many diet books, which claim that fasting is the way to cleanse the body of impurities and simultaneously lose weight. Paul and Patricia Bragg claim in The Miracle of Fasting that fasting is a cleansing period to purge the body of the waste: "You know you are fasting to purify the body of the accumulated toxic poisons and waste" (Bragg and Bragg 1999: 51). They both believe about 75 percent of Americans are obese and these people will never know the "thrill of wellness" because fat is a psychological burden as well as a health risk and fasting is the key to improving health. Purifying the body of supposed "toxins" and reducing weight remains linked by most advocates of fasting, as if the body trapped by modernity in impurity cannot cleanse itself.
See also Fletcher; Kellogg; Macfadden; Milk; Vegetarianism
References and Further Reading
Anon. "Sinclair, Upton: About the Famous Faster: Upton Sinclair, History and Biography of the Author of the
Jungle," in David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace (eds) The People's Almanac, available online at <http:/ /www.trivia-library.com/b/famous-feasts-in-history-upton-sinclair.htm> (accessed March 3, 2007).
Arthur, Anthony (2006) Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair, New York: Random House.
Bragg, Patricia C. and Bragg, Paul (1999) The Miracle of Fasting: Proven Throughout History for Physical, Mental & Spiritual Rejuvenation, Santa Barbara, Calif.: Health Science.
Gale, Robert L. (2000) "Sinclair, Upton," American National Biography Online, available online at <http:/
/www.anb.org/articles/i6/i6-oi5io.html> (accessed February 27, 2006).
Harris, Leon A. (1975) Upton Sinclair, American Rebel, New York: Crowell.
Sinclair, Upton (1906) The Jungle, New York: Doubleday, Page and Co.
-(1911) The Fasting Cure, New York and London:
Sinclair, Upton and Williams, Michael (1909) Good Health and How We Won It, New York: F.A. Stokes Company.
Was this article helpful?