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The remedy for obesity (1895)

The over-fleshy woman is seldom, if ever, a beauty

To reduce her flesh she must put many things on the black list and follow close rules of diet 

A woman with a 48-inch bust, 36-inch waist, three chins and a capacity for bringing down the scales at or about the 200 pound mark, it is almost unnecessary to say, is barred from entering a beauty contest. I have frequently seen women who might have been radiantly lovely but for the terrible malady called obesity. Fortunately it is curable, and all fat women who are willing to take the pains and to exercise the necessary self-denial, may be rationally and wholesomely — without danger, pain or drugs — reduce their flesh until they have attained a normal condition — for too much fat must be considered as a disease, and must be treated accordingly.

There are a number of causes of obesity. Frequently it is hereditary, and it is indeed sometimes a double inheritance, both parents having been over-corpulent; these are the most difficult cases to conquer. Statistics taken in Paris in 1890 show that out of 100 cases of obesity, 78 are hereditary. The inclination to corpulence shows itself usually between the thirtieth and thirty-fifth year—sometimes earlier.

If not a legacy from parents or grandparents, it is frequently induced by a lymphatic temperament or a life of sedentary occupation. People who spend a great part of their lives reading, writing or in devotional duties (priests and nuns for example) are often burdened with too much flesh, and the easy-tempered, good-natured woman, fond of eating and not at all given to athletics, loses her youthful and dainty slenderness for matronly embonpoint while she is still so young in spirit that she is deprived of many of life’s most innocent pleasures.

Exercise and diet — no starvation by any means — will reduce flesh. Nothing else will do so except powerful drastics, and the drugs which are violent enough to reduce your weight by their cathartic properties will reduce your strength in a ratio, and make you a feeble, shrunken and wrinkled ayspeptic, instead of a supple, active, splendidly strong and healthy woman.

Never take an internal remedy to reduce fat. Just consider that your stomach is like an engine or stove — the food you put into it is fuel; now all that carthartic obesity pills or draughts can do is to drive a great deal more fuel than required, at a furious rate, through the engine. It it on the principle of burning kindling wood soaked in kerosene or running the stove with soft coal — you will certainly get up a combustion, but the stove or engine will wear out in the process. No food is of value in your stomach except it be naturally digested and converted into blood and tissues.

To fill your stomach with a lot of fat-forming ingredients and then to try to defeat the natural results by following it up with drastic medicines is not only absurd, but a disgustingly material form of self-indulgence. The food which most readily produces fat is that which contains a large proportion of starch or sugar.

To reduce your weight you should black-list the following articles:

The black list

All sweets, candies, desserts, preserved fruits, anything and everything containing sugar. All starchy soups, such as purees of peas, potatoes, beans, etc. Meats: Veal, pork in any form. Fish: Salmon. All corn, butter and oil, cream and milk and all farinaceous food, macaroni, vermicelli, tapioca, sago, rice; in fact all the cereals such as oatmeal, farina, buckwheat, hominy are fat makers. All hot breads, whent breads, cake, etc. All forms of chocolate and cocoa, all beers, sweet wines, champagne or soft sweet drinks.

At first glance, it will seem to you there is little left for you but slow starvation, but this is not at all the case, for you have left enough to form a daily feast for any well-conditioned woman in following, which we will call…

The blue list

Soups: Consomme or meat sounds, ad lib. Fish of all kinds except salmon. Meats (underdone): Beef, mutton, poultry and game of all kinds. Vegetables: Tomatoes, spinach, cabbage, cucumbers, turnips, radishes, celery and vegetables not starchy or sweat. Salads of all kinds. Fruit of every description without sugar. Wines: A thin claret. Rhine wine or sherry, but any are permitted rather under protest. Three meals a day and no lunches of “tiffins.” For breakfast, coffee or tea, if you must. Try to do without sugar or cream; if this is impossible or too great a privation, reduce the quantity gradually. Dry toasted graham, rye or unsweetened brown breads. Sprinkle a little salt on it and pretend it is butter. Salt for butter is the easiest of substitutes to get accustomed to.

Warm wheat breads are destructive to both digestion and complexion and are also constipating and flesh-producing. What you need is relaxing food, and the bran in the flour is your friend. There is a bread manufactured in New York absolutely free from starch. It is not one of the so-called health breads, but is manufactured very carefully and only for special customers. Those so-called health foods are very uncertain, sometimes good and made as represented, and frequently quite the contrary.

Underdone steaks or chops or a bit of broiled chicken and anything in the way of cresses, fruit, eggs in any form. Luncheon should consist of toast, underdone meat, fruit and green vegetables or salads. Dinner: One of the soups not on tho black list, fish, underdone meat, vegetables, salads and a dessert of ripe fruit and black coffee.

Surely you cannot starve on such a diet, but you can and must reduce your fat, for you are reducing the quantity of carbon put into your stomach each day. Fat is carbon. The only way to get rid of it is to stop the supplies which make it and to burn out whatever excess remains by exercise, which oxygenates the blood and consumes the fat.


You can, of course, reduce yourself to a certain extent without exercise by eating the proper food and abstaining from fat-making materials, but in this case, you will have a lot of flabby flesh banging around your abdomen and thighs, and about your neck and throat you will look prematurely wrinkled and withered. This dire condition, so fatal to beauty, may only be obviated by exercise.

Very fat women find it difficult and fatiguing to take much physical exercise. Try to walk each day for at least an hour, and never, if you wish to regain your pretty figure, attempt any kind of exercise in tight corsets, neck bands or shoes. Never mind how you look or think how you look. You must walk unrestricted or pay the penalty in lines and wrinkles. Besides walking, you should take gymnastics or light calisthenics. Begin practicing a few moments each day at first and increasing the time as you become accustomed to the exertion.

The bicycle is an excellent flesh reducer — tennis, croquet and housework, the latter, though, not so entertaining, is a very good way to get rid of fat. Keep up and doing all day long — no naps, and nothing to eat between meals or before going to bed. Indolence is the most faithful handmaid of obesity.

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Top illustration from The Ogden standard, May 6 1916

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About this story

Source publication: Los Angeles Herald

Source publication date: 15 September 1895

Notes: The Beauty of Women: The remedy for obesity

Filed under: 1890s, Beauty & fashion, Culture & lifestyle, Featured, Health & medicine

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