Here we are. You’re not alone. We’re not alone. For anyone trying to lose weight and improve their nutritional behaviors—there’s a lot of history to consider. That’s a good thing, and at the same time, it’s pretty discouraging. It’s discouraging because about two-thirds of all Americans at any given time say they are trying to lose weight. And, we’ve been at it for close to 200 years. It’s also discouraging because more than two-thirds of us are now officially overweight or obese.
Ever heard of an “obesity soap?” It was advertised in 1903 with the “never fails to reduce flesh” claim, and sold for a dollar a bar. That’s expensive soap for 1903. If only we could just wash away our fat.
Even before obesity soap, in 1863, the first low-carb “diet” was introduced by William Banting—no potatoes, bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer or pork; but fish, mutton or beef were encouraged for every meal. Back in the late 1800s “banting” actually became slang for “dieting.” Banting himself lost 50 pounds in one year on his diet (a little over 1 pound a week, which is still accepted as a healthy rate of weight loss).
Way back in the day (150 plus years ago), it was thought that extra weight was a sign of prosperity, and might actually help ward off disease. But by 1900, excess weight was looked at as a disease. By 1916 the Department of Agriculture introduced the first five food groups. By World War II, we had the first charts showing ideal height-weight metrics (not all that far off from today’s BMI recommendations).
Then came the diets. Google “diets” today and you’ll get almost 18 million hits. But, guess what? Diets don’t work. That’s why we feel the need to try them all out. When we think of a “diet” most of us think of inconvenience, deprivation and temporary sacrifice. In reality, there’s nothing temporary about it—once you achieve your goal, you have to maintain it. Now if we shift the focus from “diet” to, hmmm, say “lifestyle change,” we’re also shifting our focus from negative to positive. And when we do that, we change our focus from denial and sacrifice to our ability to embrace positive, sustainable choices and behaviors.
Yes, our individual and collective health and wellness is complicated. It takes commitment, it takes motivation and requires self-belief, and it takes each of us making the decision to create a long-term change in our wellness behaviors—and in the way we view and embrace those behaviors.
Sure, it’s been centuries in the making, but in the end, it’s all right here in front of us. Comments?