How to lose weight… in 1898

l-My-friends-9wk-old-Pitbull-puppy-rolling-in-the-grass.I’m on the second week of my ‘Clean Eating’ program and while I’m starting to crave quinoa more than any sane person should,  my cheekbones have reappeared after a 19 year absence.

(I was so bemused by what appeared to be ‘dirty’ smudges on my face last night that I spend 10 minutes trying to scrub them off. Note to self.. one cannot erase cheekbones with apricot scrub or Dial hand sanitizer.)

Its weirdly easy. Eat three meals a day which comprise mostly of vegetables and eat until you’re full. Exercise. Sleep. Drink water. Boring.. but hella effective.

Who knew?

Well apparently not everyone. Looking back some of the dieting advice from 100 years ago, its amazing anyone fit into a corset. Yes, even back then, people were interested in trying to lose weight. And is not wonder why, given Countess C’s assessment in Beauty’s Aids: Or, How to Be Beautiful (1901);

“A very thin woman is not beautiful, but she can be graceful even to a remarkable degree; but what shall we say of an old woman, overflowing with fat, no longer possessing a human form, much less the form of a woman, always gasping, sweating, and breaking out into redness at the slightest movement, looking, in short, vulgar, ridiculous, and half-bestial.

And so fattism was born…

Mrs. Annette Kellerman in her 1901 book, Physical Beauty, How to Keep it, has lots of advice for keeping one’s figure from straying into ‘bestial’ territories, starting with the travesty that is sleep;

“Mere napping about for those who already have too much rest and luxury is suicidal to both mind and body. Oversleeping at any time makes one stupid and logy, yes — fat”

Wow.. so apparently beauty sleep had yet to be invented. I know that too much sitting around makes you lazy… but suicidal? In fact, she posits;

“Exchange her soft and downy bed for a harder one and reduce her sleep by two or three hours daily.”

Damn. That Mrs. Kellerman was kind of a hard-ass. And who’s doing that ‘exchanging’? If my spouse told me we’re now going to be sleeping on a board and waking at 4am, I’d think he’s lost his mind. Assuming you managed to cling to your pillowtop, next up.. working out.

“much exercise, even violent exercise, must be taken” [Beauty’s Aids: Or, How to Be Beautiful]

I like the sound of ‘violent exercise’. What did she have in mind? Boxing? Lifting of weights? Punching the husband who now has you sleeping on a board and waking at 4am? Wait for it, Lina Cavalieri (1914) tells you exactly how violent your exercise should get;

“Begin your rolling. There is no mystery about rolling. It is simply what the name indicates. Down upon the floor you go and roll over and over swiftly, not slowly as a porpoise rolls. The porpoise, you will observe, is not a slender animal. Roll over as a puppy, tingling with the joy of life, rolls in the dust when at play. Roll quickly. Make at least 80 revolutions before stopping. [My Secrets of Beauty]

Presumably rolling, like pastry, rolls out your fat. And, unmentioned side effect, gives your spouse something to laugh at.

Because I work at home and had nothing better to do while waiting for a call to start, I decided to give rolling a try. Result – the dog thought I’d lost my mind, I acted like a extra large Swiffer pad to all of the dog hair and dust in my carpet and I got a bit dizzy.

I don’t think I lost anything except a tiny bit of self respect.

But when you’re done ‘rolling’ ? Helen Follet Jameson (1899) warns;

“Do not drink much water. A little lemon juice added to it will make it less fattening”

Why of course! Water, that known fattening substance. I don’t know about you but after a glass or two of water I’m positively stuffed. But Countess C goes one step further in her groundbreaking ‘Beauty’s Aids: Or, How to Be Beautiful‘ (1901), and counsels;

“First and most important, drink very little, as little as possible, and only red or white wine, preferably Burgundy, or tea or coffee slightly alcoholized.”

No water, but tea with bourbon after my rolling? How can this fail?

(After brushing off all the lint on my person, I briefly considered a shot of vodka but even I can’t be talked into booze at 1pm as a diet aid).

Amazingly, even 100 years ago, the American obesity crisis had already started, according to the treatise: Beauty, Its Attainment and Preservation (1892);

“In America the number of fat people is growing larger every year… As a matter of fact, a great deal of this discomfort might be avoided if people would not drink such an inordinate quantity of ice water”

I knew it wasn’t the donuts and Doctor Pepper.. its all that sleep and ice water. You indulgent and gluttonous people. Stop with that right now!

But if you’re finding that the pounds aren’t melting away quite fast enough you might want to consider fresh air. As Lina Cavalieri explains in her 1914 My Secrets of Beauty:

“Fresh air is a destructive agent to fat. Oxygen burns carbon. To make this clear, let me ask you if you have noticed how a dying fire flames up when a draught of cold air is turned upon it? That is precisely what happens when a woman who is too fat goes out for a walk. Oxygen acts upon this as a burning match applied to paper.”

Damn I always knew that air had more uses than just sustaining life.. it’s a magic fat melter!  Screw Crossfit, screw clean eating. You can find me in the local park, vigorously rolling my fat away, in fact ‘rolling as a puppy, tingling with the joy of life’, while sipping on some whiskey and breathing in some fat burning air.

Ah.. the price of beauty.

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