Strange diets of the past. Part 1 – Diets. How to lose weight
In ancient times, when food was simple and healthy, mankind did not know the problem of excess weight, on the contrary, it was often problematic to feed a family. Our ancient ancestors made a tremendous amount of effort to get food, and ate only to get energy. Excess weight simply had nowhere to come from. The word “diet” then meant “lifestyle”, and the need for special nutrition arose only in case of illness. With the growing prosperity of society, nutrition gradually improved, food became more affordable, and people were able to pamper themselves: new overseas products and sophisticated culinary methods appeared that whet the appetite, but lead to a decrease in the beneficial properties of products. All this led to the fact that in the 19th century mankind first faced the problem of excess weight, however, at that time it was the privilege of the nobility. The beginning and middle of the 19th century can be considered the time of the emergence of diets in the modern sense of the word. Since then, humanity has come up with many ways to eat, many of which can only bring a smile to a nutritionist. However, knowing about the diets of the past will help you avoid falling for the bait of today’s crooks.
The first author’s diet dates back to 1087. Its inventor was William the Conqueror, King of England. Finding that no horse could support his weight, he completely gave up food, replacing it with wine and beer. How effective such a diet turned out to be is unknown, since its inventor soon died after falling from a horse.
The first documented example of a fairly consistent diet is found in the biography of Lord George Gordon Byron. Being quite well-fed, he strove to lose weight and achieve a “noble pallor.” For this, as well as to compensate for congenital lameness, he went in for sports and gave up meat, which only added to his blush. Then Lord Byron began to drink vinegar before eating and even soak food in it. His main food was rice, and his drink was water with vinegar. Byron achieved a mysterious pallor and weight loss, but did not live long after that. At the age of 36, he died after a prolonged fever, and an autopsy revealed that his internal organs were badly worn out.
What caused Byron to resort to vinegar? He was probably familiar with the works of Hippocrates, who wrote about the benefits of vinegar in the treatment of joints and digestive problems. For weight loss, vinegar was used due to its properties to break down fat. Byron’s vinegar diet took on a new lease of life in America in the 1970s. Her supporters drank a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before meals to suppress their appetite. There were even vinegar tablets for those who couldn’t stand the taste of vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is quite useful – it contains traces of minerals and vitamins, stimulates digestion and even prevents the formation of cholesterol plaques, but using a vinegar diet to lose weight, we put the body in increased danger: only natural apple cider vinegar has beneficial properties, which is easy to confuse with vinegar essence. To achieve the result, the vinegar diet provides for a balanced diet and physical activity. As far as appetite suppression is concerned, a glass of pure water taken before a meal has the same effect, so the properties of vinegar are greatly exaggerated.
In the 1830s, the American Presbyterian preacher Sylvester Graham developed a kind of diet aimed primarily at eradicating the sins of gluttony and adultery, and the loss of extra pounds was provided as a bonus. Graham’s diet excluded meat and other animal products, as well as alcohol, tea, coffee, salt and other spices, as they induce appetite and other carnal desires. The preacher considered the main food of the Christian to be coarsely ground bread and even developed a recipe for unleavened crisp bread, which still bear his name – Graham. Graham was one of the first to speak out against the common practice of adding chlorine compounds to bread to bleach flour at the time, which angered the corporations that make bread and baked goods.
Interestingly, the works of the preacher formed the basis of the traditional American breakfast – sweet instant cereal. The Kelloggs, followers of Graham, in an effort to suppress carnal desires, developed a recipe for cereal from ground wheat, corn and acorns. Naturally, such a dish was not in demand, but soon John Kellogg in a dream discovered a method of making flakes by soaking and flattening grains. After much experimentation, he managed to make thin crispy flakes from wheat and corn, but as is usually the case in America, the desire for profit ruined the idea: John Kellogg’s brother, far from fighting human passions, began to add sugar to the flakes to make them sell better. In the first year, huge quantities of sweet cornflakes were sold, and the brothers became enemies for the rest of their lives.
In the late 19th – early 20th centuries, hunger disappeared in America and Europe, fullness was no longer perceived as a sign of prosperity, and a fashion for harmony appeared. The roles have changed: the wealthy are now slim, and the poor are fat. Among wealthy people, the “long chewing theory” developed by the British politician William Gladstone and Dr. Fletcher has spread. Fletcher’s method involved chewing each piece of food at least 32 times and mixing all fluids entering the body with saliva for better absorption. This method was used by Rockefeller and cadets of military academies. By the way, Fletcher himself also became a millionaire thanks to the high sales of his books.
At the same time, at the end of the 19th century, a sugar substitute, saccharin, was invented, which made it possible not only to produce cheap sweets, but also to use them without fear for the figure. The advent of saccharin can be considered the beginning of the weight loss industry. In the absence of state control, numerous charlatans offered wealthy citizens “miraculous” means for losing weight: soda, strychnine, mercury, arsenic in beautiful packaging. One businessman was selling tapeworm larvae capsules under the guise of a food-eater. The dietary chaos of the beginning of the century ended only with the beginning of World War I.
Immediately after World War I and before the Great Depression, the so-called cigarette diet was in vogue in America. Lucky Strike cigarettes in 1925 were advertised with the slogan: “Take Lucky instead of candy” (“Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet”). The effectiveness of the cigarette diet was explained by the fact that nicotine suppresses appetite. We think it is not necessary to talk about the consequences of such a diet for health.
Villalmur Stefanson, an ethnographer who studies the peoples of the Arctic, in 1928 proposed to the world the so-called Inuit Diet. After spending a lot of time with the Eskimos and eating their traditional food, the researcher noticed that their diet is good for the white man too. Although the Eskimos almost do not consume plant foods, they do not have vitamin deficiency and many diseases that have become typical for Europeans. The reason for this is the large amount of fresh fish rich in fatty acids. Since the amount of fat in the diet of the Eskimos is small, and there are practically no carbohydrates, an average of about 1200 calories are consumed per day, which contributes to the rapid loss of excess weight. The only problem is that the inhabitants of modern cities do not have the opportunity to eat freshly caught fish and meat that has not been frozen, so the Eskimo diet will quickly lead a white man to lethargy and illness.
In 1934, Dr. George Harrop developed the Bananas & Skim Milk Diet, which was very appealing to those with a sweet tooth. It was, in fact, a hidden ad for United Fruit Co bananas, aimed at those who want to lose weight. Although there is nothing dangerous in bananas and cream, but on the contrary – easily digestible proteins, potassium, calcium, vitamins – there is no need to talk about the effectiveness of such a diet in the fight against excess weight, not to mention the ethics of such advertising.
The first pills for weight loss
In the 1930s, American doctors noticed weight loss among warehouse workers who dealt with paints, insecticides, and explosives. It turned out that all these products contain dinitroferol – a substance that enhances metabolism, and therefore – burns the body’s fat reserves. After discovering these properties of dinitroferol, the Soviet army began experiments on its use to increase the tone of soldiers, and in the USA this substance was widely used for weight loss. About 100,000 people have used the new tool. Its further spread was prevented by several cases of vision loss and several deaths associated with overdose.
Cabbage soup diet
In the 1950s, the so-called cabbage soup diet, also known as the “Sacred Heart Diet”, “Military Diet”, “Russian Peasant Diet” and even the “General Motors Diet”, was very popular. This diet is based on the fact that cabbage is one of the lowest calorie foods. According to the developers, in a week on such a diet, you can lose up to 5 kg, while eating as much cabbage soup as you want, and sometimes allowing yourself a little meat and vegetables. However, nutritionists say that such a diet leads to loss of fluids, not fat, and a lack of protein for several days can lead to serious consequences. In addition, a side effect of the cabbage diet is increased gas production and a lifelong aversion to cabbage.
The Hollywood or grapefruit diet appeared in the 1930s, but only became popular in the 1970s. This diet involves consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice with every meal and cutting down to 800 calories a day. The grapefruit diet promises to lose 4-5 kg in 10 days, which may well be true, however, the danger of this diet is that the increased acidity is harmful to the enamel of the teeth and the mucous membrane of the stomach and intestines.
Many of these diets appeared before the major discoveries in dietetics were made, so something seems naive and even silly. In the second part of the article, you will learn what methods of dealing with obesity are offered to a modern person, and make sure that no fundamental differences have been made, despite scientific progress, and that everything new is well forgotten old.