The History of Diets- Part 1 of 3

In order to understand the “shape” of weight-management, today, it’s helpful to know the evolution of the industry.

World-wide obsession with dieting has been around for hundreds of years. The ideal figure has been sought since it was painted on vases. Now, of course, it’s plastered on billboards, printed in magazines, displayed on TV and all over the internet.

The following is a recap of some of the more interesting and famous diets.

1700’s – Dieting to reduce body weight emerges as a western concept. Trendy Madame de Pompadour, at 5’1″ and 111 lbs., declares herself “skeletally thin.” The corset is invented.

1828 – French food aesthete Brillat-Savarin suggests moderation, not for health reasons, but as a sign of refinement. Diets are de rigueur. Godey’s Lady Book promotes fashionably thin models.

1864 – William Banting drops 46 pounds eating mutton, eggs and vegetables, as described in his bestselling Letter on Corpulence.

1917 – Diet and Health is first published by Lulu Hunt Peters, a chronically overweight person. Peters teaches readers about “calories,” a term previously used only in physics, and advises a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet.

1930’s – Movie stars popularize the Hollywood 18-Day Diet. It consists of grapefruit, melba toast, green vegetables and boiled eggs.

1933 – Mayo Clinic’s scientific diet, the Mayo Food Nomogram, is mistaken for a complicated word game and fades into obscurity.

1939 – Miracle diet pills, a.k.a. amphetamines, generate sales of $30 million annually before the FDA steps in. Bathing-suit ad slogan: “Suit by Jantzen. Body by Dexaspan.”

1943 – Metropolitan Life publishes Ideal Weight Table for women.

1947 – Psychoanalyst Hilde Bruch says the glandular theory of obesity is not true. “The blubbery patient belongs not in the gym, but in the psychiatrist’s office.”

1951-1952 – The New York Times claims overweight is our number-one health problem. Reader’s Digest admonishes wives to “Stop Killing Your Husband.”

Throughout history, “Fitness” (proper nutrition and physical activity) continues to be the ONLY credible protocol for long-term weight-management.

 Next blog I will cover the years 1959-2000….

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