Eating To Reduce Weight
( Originally Published 1921 )
THROUGHOUT this book I have given numerous arguments against over-eating and the condition of obesity which usually follows.
But perhaps the most convincing argument of all is that the fat man or woman is unsightly of appearance and very obviously handicapped in social life as well as in the more serious business of muscular or mental activity. Fat is no longer in fashion, and even a degree of fatness formerly thought to be a sign of good health is now known to be a sign of ill health and a prognostication of an untimely death.
Most convincing of these very real handicaps of the fat man in the race of life are the investigations made a few years ago by the insurance companies of America. Hundreds of thousands of cases were tabulated in which the weights and heights of the policy holders were known. From the records of all policy holders the average weights for the various heights and ages were determined. All records were then assorted according to the percentage of individual departure above or below these standard or average weight figures. The number of deaths in each such group were known and by comparing the number of deaths that actually did occur with the death rate to be expected from all individuals of similar ages, it was possible to derive figures that show the practical effect of various degrees of over and under weight upon the death rate.
The description of this method of investigation may seem a little confusing to the reader, but he can rest assured that the life insurance statisticians knew what they were about. Their companies pay out millions of dollars on policies and if they make a mistake of insuring the wrong kind of men, or of insuring them at too low a rate the companies will suffer a heavy financial loss. There was money back of this effort to find the truth concerning the effect of the weight upon the proper length of life; and the truth, when found, surprised even the insurance experts.
They found that over-weight, even in a mild degree very materially increased the death rate; they also found that the greater the over-weight the greater the increase in death rate. No statistics were gathered for extreme cases, as these would be too few in number to draw a general conclusion, but they found that men ranging from sixty-five to eighty-five pounds over-weight (which in a man of average height would be about 225 pounds) had, at some age periods, a death rate practically twice as great as men of normal weight.
The increase in death rate or the danger from obesity was discovered to vary in degree according to age; obesity is not nearly so dangerous in youth, and not quite so dangerous in old age, as it is in middle life. But at all ages extreme obesity increased the death rate.
On the other hand it was found that under-weight is most dangerous in youth; as men grow older being under the average weight is found to be an actual advantage and results in a decreased death rate. Obviously the reason for this is that the average figures for the weights of all men which were taken as a standard in this investigation do not constitute a true or an ideal standard. By a study of these figures (too complicated to give here in detail) we learn that young men, on the average, weigh less than they should, and that older men, on the average, weigh more than they should. The logical ex-planation is that young men are not so often too fat but have frequently undeveloped muscles, whereas the great majority of old men, what-ever be their muscular development, are too fat.
Youth is a period of activity, the pcriod in which growth and muscular development should occur. As men grow older they are naturally less active and some shrinkage in muscular development is not incompatible with health and efficiency. Usually what happens is that , the muscles are allowed to shrink too much and the diet is not decreased in proportion as it should be. And again obesity invariably results.
Tables of average weight, erroneously called "standard weights" show for both sexes an in-crease of weight with age. True standard weight tables should show exactly the opposite. The lithe and athletic form of youth is and always will be our ideal of physical form and beauty. To retain it with the passing of years is rather difficult, quite impossible unless youthful activities are kept up. But to camouflage the loss of the muscles of youth by an accumulation of fat is a trick by which we may cheat ourselves and our ignorant neighbors, but we cannot cheat Nature, and she will exact her recompense in the form of inefficiency, ill-health and premature death.
Why then, some may ask, did "Nature" make it so easy for us to accumulate this burden of fat, only to punish us for sins with which she tempted us? The answer is that primitive man, like other animals, had an uncertain and irregular food supply, it was therefore frequently advantageous to him to eat more than he needed one day in order to carry him over the several days when there might be nothing at all to eat. Civilization has made this crude and inefficient method of food storage unnecessary. On the other hand, civilization has decreased man's need of physical labor which would consume, in a beneficial manner, a larger quantity of food material Still worse, civilization has compounded thousands of dishes made of over-seasoned and appetite-tempting foods, and so milled and cooked that they may be eaten more quickly and hence in larger quantities than natural food would be.
As a total result of the blunders of man, we find ourselves with a natural temptation to eat more than we immediately need, with the resulting evils greatly increased by our decreased activities and the artificial stimulation of our appetites by unnatural foods.
The remedy is the exercise of both intelligence and will-power. People who are too fat and know that they are too fat—who may even protest that they do not over-eat—do over-eat and continue to over-eat simply because they like to eat. Such people are always searching for some easy, lazy way to "reduce," without either taking exercise or restricting the diet. They will take any kind of a reducing pill that any charlatan offers them, whether it be made of "bread" or poison. They will go to Turkish baths and sweat out a little water and so tip the scale a pound or two less and go home very happy—only to get their fat back as soon as they have satisfied their thirst. Fat cannot be sweated out nor can it be rubbed off or vanquished by electricity, magnetism, X-rays, or any other form of hocus-pocus.
Fat once deposited in the body can only be got rid of by burning it up, that is, by oxidizing it and breathing it out in the form of carbon-dioxide. There are two ways to achieve this end: one is by increased exercise, and the other is by the decreased consumption of fat-making foods which will cause the body to burn some of its stored fat in lieu of a shortage of fuel material coming directly from the food supply. Either of the above methods of reducing will work alone, but the two of them will work better together. The difficulty with attempts to reduce by exercise without considering the diet is that the exercise frequently stimulates the appetite; and if that is unrestrained, the results may be merely that the additional food ingredients required by the exercise are sup-plied by the additional food eaten.
I advise the combination of dieting and exercises in reduction, not because it is the easier method, but because it is the better method. Obese individuals usually accumulate their fat because of lack of exercise and the fatter they become the more unpleasant exercise be-comes and the more ungainly they look in the gymnasium or on the tennis court. As a result the fiat man, and even to a greater degree the fat woman, is usually under-developed muscularly.
Since additional exercise tends to stimulate the appetite, it might be well to begin your pro-gram of exercise first and continue for a few days, before attempting to begin a restricted diet program. In such case you should be careful not to change your eating habits for the worse. As soon as the body has begun to draw upon its stored fat for a fuel supply, and you have become accustomed to resisting the temptation to eat all you want, you may then begin a systematic dietetic program for reduction.
Exercise alone will reduce you, if you do not increase the food supply, but for those who are very fat, the method is too slow and the amount of exercise required is too great; on the other hand, dieting alone will reduce you very positively and very rapidly, but it will not build up muscular tissue to take the place of the fat that is lost.
The rate of reduction that may be achieved under dieting is not as great as some misleading advertisements would lead us to believe; even under complete fasting, the loss of weight usually ranges from but three-quarters of a pound to one pound a day, although the first three or four days very strenuous exercise will increase this somewhat, but ordinarily the higher figures of reduction are impossible though they may apparently be attained for a few days when one first begins the restricted diet. Such temporary losses of weight are not due to a loss of fat, but only to the decrease of the weight of the food in progress of digestion and perhaps to some loss of water from the body.
The most rapidly effective method of reduction is, of course, a complete fast. Its chief ad-vantage is that it works; whereas many dietetic programs fail to work, merely because one fails, unconsciously perhaps, to adhere to them. When a man goes on a fast he knows positively whether he is keeping faith with himself or not. Short intervals of fasting, either at the beginning of -a course of reduction, or at some later stage, are always effective and often very beneficial, and I do not hesitate to advise them.
The difficulties with the fasting method of reduction are that, from its very nature, it is a temporary makeshift; when one breaks the fast the temptation to eat all one can is very great, and fat can be put back almost as rapidly as it can be taken off. Moreover, in the case of those who are very much over-weight, the body can be starved for non-fat elements before the fat can be taken off by fasting. The danger of this would, of course, be increased if the previous diet had been deficient in non-fat food essentials; which is very frequently the case. Long fasts as scientific experiments are very interesting and instructive. Under skilled guidance long fasts also have very great value as a curative agency.
The quickest safe way to reduce is to limit the diet to those foods needed to supply the vitamines, the minerals and a sufficient though not excessive quantity of the high efficiency proteins. Such a diet, if selected from natural foods, will not be wholly lacking in food elements from which fat can be made; hence any diet, if eaten in excessive quantities, will fail as a reducing diet.
The ideal method of weight reduction is to select a diet in which fat forming elements are less than the usual proportions for maintaining a normal weight—and to eat of such foods in quantities strictly limited to the amount necessary to supply the non-fat elements. Upon such regimes, a number of which will be given in this chapter, it is possible to lose from one-fourth to one-half pound a day; and no matter what the weight to begin with, one can keep up such a diet until a truly ideal weight has been established. Then with a moderate addition of the fuel foods the essential diet may be continued without any radical break or change which would tempt one to go back to his former eating habits.
In planning the diet for reduction there are a few other points that should be noted. It is desirable that the restrictions be made in a form that will cause the least privation from hunger and offer the least temptation to over-eating. The use of foods of a bulky nature will aid in this matter both because the mind will not note the seeming scarcity of food so readily, nor will the digestive tract feel so empty; hence bulky vegetables and pulpy or juicy fruits should constitute a large proportion of the reducing diet. Their use in such case is also quite in harmony with our desire to supply ample quantities of vitamines and minerals, and to promote -a vigorous intestinal action, thus pre-venting constipation, which might otherwise occur from a decrease in the accustomed quantity of food.
A second consideration is that foods should be used that require mastication, and that pains should be taken to eat slowly and masticate all foods. A given quantity of food which requires thirty minutes to eat will be much more satisfying and more thoroughly appease hunger than if the same quantity of food were disposed of in five or ten minutes.
A third consideration is that one should not eat too often—or at least one should not sit down to a full spread meal too often. This may be purely a matter of habit, but it is rather difficult for most of us to "quit in the middle of a meal." It is much easier to skip the meal entirely. As a general thing I should advise the adoption of the two-meal a day plan for all those who are over-weight. A still better plan during active reduction would be to have only one regular meal, by which I mean a meal with a variety of courses. The other "meal" or meals as it may be in this case should consist of one or two definite items, such as, a glass of milk, an orange or a salad, when it is no temptation at all to over-eat because no general meal is set before one.
You will frequently meet with so-called reducing diets, in which the essential advice given-is to refrain from certain particular foods. The publication of such half scientific matter has been to convey the notion that certain foods are "fattening." Among those that have fallen under the taboo are potatoes, sugar and, of course, fat meat, pastries and confections. These foods are no more fattening than scores of others that might be mentioned. Eliminating them from the diet will be effective only in case they have been eaten to excess in the past, and one eliminates then without putting other equally fattening foods in their places. There is no necessity for strictly avoiding any one food in a reducing program. Particularly in the case of potatoes, a comparatively innocent food has suffered a most unfair reputation, and merely because so many people eat potatoes in wholly uncalled-for quantities. Most of these so-called fattening foods are eaten in excess, and the quantity should be reduced or the food entirely eliminated. Where the practical joke comes from such notions is that the fat man most religiously abstains from the tabooed food and then wonders why he does not get thin, and perhaps concludes that all dietetic writers are fakers. I have seen men whose waists were bigger than their chests very carefully put a saccharine pill into their coffee, to avoid a teaspoonful of sugar, or perhaps refuse a potato in the manner of a Methodist preacher from Kansas rejecting a Scotch highball—and then consume a meal that would have foundered a champion pugilist.
Some typical weight-reducing menus:
Clear Vegetable Soup
Glass of Buttermilk Lettuce, Tomato Salad with Cottage Cheese Dressing without Oil
Breakfast A few soaked Prunes or A glass of Buttermilk
Glass of Milk