The more things change . . . it’s always fascinating when unearthing an issue of a magazine reveals that something we thought was a modern phenomenon turns out to be much older than we ever suspected.
Consider this cautionary article from 1929, warning women about following in the footsteps of celebrity dieters. The specifics may have changed, but so much else is the same.
Joan Crawford’s Three Spoons of Soup Diet
According to the article, Joan Crawford was witnessed at lunch eating just a few spoons of clear soup, a couple of crackers thickly spread with mustard, and a small dish of rhubarb. Certainly, this kind of diet would account for the angry behavior we see in Mommie Dearest.
The article also talks about a celebrity slimming diet that allows just 305 Calories a day. Breakfast consists of just hot water, and lunch of not much more—8 tablespoons of clear soup, a few crackers, and a quarter pound of tomatoes. The big meal of the day was made up of cottage cheese, pineapple, and a glass of buttermilk. (Sounds like the cabbage soup diet!) We know this is a starvation diet, and we know that starvation diets not only don’t always work, they‘re also dangerous.
The article talks about actress Barbara LaMarr, who caught tuberculosis when she was weakened by dieting and died, and Kathryn Grant, a former Miss LA whose dieting attempt led to her becoming an invalid for life.
The article also talks about a primitive form of surgical fat removal. In this procedure, the body is cut open and fat is removed manually and using electric needles that melt it. The young starlet had been asked to lose weight for a role, which she did using a starvation diet. Then her costar was injured, and her scenes had to be rescheduled. By the time it was her turn to shoot scenes again, she had regained all the weight she had lost, and then was unable to lose fat.
The 1929 article also talks about the tricks cameramen used to make women look thinner. Altering lights and angles can help starlets look thinner, which can make women outside of Hollywood imagine they are overweight when they are actually healthy.
“Healthy” Weight and Dieting
However, if we look at the doctor-recommended weight loss plan in the article, it isn’t that much better. The doctor puts together a daily diet totaling a little over 1500 Calories, which is a reasonable diet, but he also recommends that women should try to lose 2 to 3 pounds a week, which is a bit high for sustained weight loss.
However, the height and weight table in the article reflects healthy proportions. Although they didn’t have the concept of Body Mass Index (BMI) in 1929, the height and weight listed as healthy actually reflects a BMI of about 22, squarely in the middle of what is considered healthy today (though the unhealthy “star” weight actually skirts the bottom range of healthy, 18.5 BMI).
Healthy Weight Loss That Works
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