Fighting Obesity Through the Centuries – A Weight Loss Doctor Reveals Some Old Secrets12 min read
Without A Plan Permanent Weight Loss is Impossible.
The top resolution for 2010, just like it has been for every year is shedding weight and becoming physically fit. It also can become the hardest to do: changing the way we eat and exercise in a few days or even in a few months can overwhelm just about anyone. The first step is always to prepare a plan, weight loss without a definite plan is impossible. Whether you try low carb, count calories, points or eat specially prepared meals, you still need a plan. Before you jump on the first plan you hear about, take a long look and see that the task of losing weight is nothing new. It goes back to 5000 years to early Egypt. Take a look through the centuries and find a plan that is best for you.
Obesity and Dieting is Nothing New
The earliest indications of obesity can be traced back to the first modern humans in Europe about 35,000 years ago. In those days, efficient storage of energy (i.e., fat) in times of plenty was paramount to surviving the next famine. Times have changed and famine does not exist in our part of the world any longer. Therefore, our once lifesaving ability to store energy (i.e., fat) efficiently has since turned against us. It now shows up in our society as the constant concern of too much weight and ultimately, as obesity. For thousands of years, being overweight and obesity were exceptionally rare phenomena and were almost never studied.
The perception of obesity varied among cultures.
In ancient Egypt, obesity was considered a disease. Egyptians depicted their enemies as obese individuals. Obesity was certainly not the Egyptian beauty ideal, which instead featured long, slender legs, narrow hips with high breasts, and golden skin. Concerned that diet maintained their health, the ancients recognized that the quantity and quality of food were equally important. Their method of portion control was rather primitive. They
Vomited and purged themselves three times a month.
Ancient China was aware of obesity and the dangers that come with it. The texts tolled Gobi berries for strengthening the liver, preventing obesity, and fortifying the-Qi-(chi) or life force. The Aztecs believed that obesity was supernatural, an affliction of the Gods. They had a sophisticated vocabulary for obesity and locations of specific fat deposits, including a double chin and a -beer belly.
The ancient Greeks first recognized the dangers of obesity. Hippocrates, considered the Father of Medicine,believed that obesity led to infertility and even death.
- Hippocrates was aware of sudden deaths being more common among obese men than lean ones. He correctly identified the energy balance equation:
- Energy cannot be created or destroyed.
- Energy is either used or stored.
- When -calories in- are greater than -calories out- then body weight increases.
- When -calories in- are less than -calories out-then body weight decreases.
After Hippocrates laid the foundation for understanding energy and weight management within the human body, another two thousand years went by before the general public in Europe, in the early 1600s, began to recognize diet and exercise as means to preserving one’s health.
Around the 17th century, links between diet, disease, and health were clearly acknowledged.
Study after study emphasized the benefits of leanness and the dangers of corpulence. beginning in the 17 the century. The term obesity was first used in 1650 by the English physician and medical writer, Dr. Tobias Venner. With the industrial revolution of the 19th century, England saw a growing abundance of food coupled with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. The result was a vast increase in obesity among the middle and upper classes.
Unfortunately, as the medical society and the public in general began to look at obesity and its complications as serious health problems, knowledge on how to reverse it, especially permanently, remained unclear! Surprisingly, most 19th century doctors had no idea about its cause. Many thought obesity was due to sin or diseases.
Physicians of the time did not believe that what you ate had a direct impact on your body and on your general health. People typically ate bread, potatoes, pastry, puddings and cakes, and served their meat with thick gravies. Alcohol was part of daily life. Basically, people of that time ate as much as they could afford! After all, a big belly was a sign of prosperity.
Lights Begins to Shine in the early 1800’s with Graham Crackers in America
During the early 1830s, Reverend Sylvester Graham was the first American to relate food choices to health. He condemned the sin of gluttony,advocating a bland, vegetarian diet as the cure. Dr. Graham developed a recipe and encouraged people to eat flat bread made of coarse whole wheat flour. However, people who ate his Graham Cracker were described as -pale and sickly. Reverend Graham became known as Dr. Sawdust-not a very good start to reversing obesity, but these were the first efforts made to remediate the condition
Revelations Appear in early 19th Century London:
Across the Atlantic Ocean, in the early 19th century Dr William Wadd, a physician of the English Court, finally touched the heart of the matter. He connected overindulgence at the table with the dangerous conditions that resulted from an excess of fat deposits in the body.
Dr. Wadd’s first principle of treatment was taking food that has little nutrition in it.Was he describing eating food with less fat or carbs? He pointed out that many physicians refused to treat obese patients because they did not recognize the growing obesity epidemic of the early 1800s as a real and dangerous disease. That was in 1800. Sounds familiar?
In 1850, the medical profession in Europe had accepted the theory of German chemist Baron Justus von Liebig that carbohydrate and fat supplied the carbon which, combined with oxygen in the lungs, produced body heat. In terms of this theory, carbohydrate and fat were respiratory foods and the cause of obesity was believed to be an overindulgence of them.
Dr. Liebig’s patients were cut off from food for as long as possible and almost starved themselves to death. He exhorted establishing an hourly watch over the instinctive desires of his patients. Although this was only the first organized attempt to reverse obesity, a more humane treatment was needed. Nevertheless, the importance of limiting food intake to treat obesity became fairly well accepted by the mid 1800s. The challenge was then, as it still is today, the unbearable hunger that always accompanies the reduction of food consumption.
4 London Doctors Uncover the Secrets of Weight Loss: (Much of which we then forgot)
During the 19th century, three English doctors-Horace Dobell (1826-1916), Isaac Burney Yeo (1835-1914) and John Ayrton Paris (1785-1856)-turned their attention to the growing problem of obesity, researching methods and assisting obese individuals in overcoming their weight-related issues. They concluded that the excess food and increasingly sedentary lifestyle of 19th century England conflicted with the body’s biological need to efficiently store energy (i.e., fat) in times of plenty to survive the next famine. They recognized that quick fixes and miracle solutions offered no answer to this problem.
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, alerted his readers in 1825 to the dangers of fad diets. He warned against the common use of so called venagar to lose weight and was one of the first advocates of limiting carbs. His book, The Physiology of Taste is one of the first important books on food.
Dr Burney in 1842 Unravels the Secret to Successful Weight Loss:
Humans-like animals-are motivated by four basic drives: hunger, thirst, sex, and the need for security. Hunger and sex are the strongest, being necessary for the survival of our species. Dr. Burney-famous for his Yeo’s Treatment(treatment of obesity by giving large amounts of hot drinks and withholding carbohydrates)-noted that the sensation of hunger, although involving mainly the stomach, originates in the brain. Additionally, as this sensation is one of the most basic of the human emotions, its regulation must occur slowly and with the greatest care.
Hunger that is not satisfied creates morbid cravings,as Dr. Burney wrote. Probably the main reason why so many diets fail is that they ignore what Dr. Burney calls-our most basic of all drives-hunger.
Before we even started to count calories, points, fat, carbs or protein, and other metrics we use to help us regulate our food intake, Drs. Dobell and Burney had already concluded that all of these methods were too complicated. Both doctors noted that dietary changes should be based on the individual’s unique requirements concerning age, gender, and activity level. However, 1865 was the age of vapors, elixirs, potions, and liniments. Telling an upper class, overweight lawyer that his excessive eating caused the fat around his belly and that he had to physically exercise-like a farm hand-was problematic and almost drove Dr. Burney out of practice.
Diet is related to age, sex, occupation… and should correspond to what a person likes. Avoid any unnecessary changes in the number or variety of food and always give a patient what he likes, unless there is an unquestionably good reason for not doing so, writes Dr Burney in 1842.
You might think recognizing that overeating will make us fat is pretty obvious and was not at all a significant discovery. In reality, most weight loss plans today fail to take into consideration that not everyone can eat the same food, the same amounts of food, or react the same way to foods. This is why none of these generic diet concepts work. We are all different and every person requires personalized plans of action to achieve long-term success in managing sustainable and healthy weight levels.
How many diet plans even consider what the individual actually likes to eat? Drs. Dobell and Burney stressed that a successful weight loss plan depends on making as few changes as possible and then tailoring the food to the individual’s age, sex and occupation and, especially, to personal likings. This advice is even more relevant today than it was 175 years ago. Finding the real causes for your weight problems and then selecting foods based on these personal factors-including what you like to eat-was fundamental back then and is just as important today.
Keeping Weight Loss Plans Simple is Nothing New:
-Interference with a diet, like all good things, is particularly open to abuse for nothing is so easier than to lay down a complicated code of restriction and rules as to what to eat and what to drink and the patient is very apt to think that the skill of the doctor increases with the number and variety of the orders. But those who understand the principle of a diet know that the reverse is true…instead of meddling with unimportant details, seize the few essential points for which a diet generally will be found to turn. Those that are best off are those that abstain from all attempts to meddle-writes Dr Horace Dobell in 1865.
William Bunting, a London Undertaker Writes About His Experiences Fighting Obesity, Some Practical
Ideas from the First Celebrity Dieter:
In 1860, in what is considered one of the first diet books, a famous London undertaker and coffin maker William Banting, revealed how to lose and-most importantly-maintain, weight loss for years. At 5 feet 5 inches in height and weighing more than 202 lbs., Banting experienced rapid weight gain beginning at age 30. He was so overweight that he had to walk down the stairs backwards to avoid jarring his knees. He was unable to ties his shoes or pull up his pants. Despite vigorous exercise, spa treatments, self -induced vomiting, drinking gallons of water, low-calorie and starvation diets, he only kept gaining weight.
For many years, he went from one doctor to another in vain-They took my money but they failed to make me thinner. He was hospitalized twenty times for weight reduction, only to fail again. One of his physicians noted that putting on weight was perfectly -natural-; the physician himself had being gaining a pound a year for years. Fed up with physicians and failures, he created his own plan, bearing many similarities with the findings of Drs. Dobell, Burney and Paris and described it in his famous Letter of Corpulence, first published in 1864.
Amount of Food: People of larger frame and build require a proportionally larger quantity of… food… and foods that are beneficial in youth are prejudicial in aged.
- Kind of Food: Starch, sugar and fatty meats tend to create fat and should be avoided all together. Experimentation is needed, to establish which foods cause weight gain for that individual and which do not. No attempt to restrict all carbohydrates — but sugar, potatoes, and some breads… Vegetables and fruits of all kinds are permitted freely.
- Food Changes have to be gradual and kept to a minimum so as not to cause feelings of loss and… return to former habits.
- Number of Meals -Four meals a day are preferred. (The fourth is a late evening snack.)-
- Exercise- The rules of diet you found so beneficial have been long forced upon men who are under training for running or prize fights… most overweight people are unhealthy or lacking time and are unable to exercise and sweat-
Mr. Banting successfully lost more than 50 lbs. and kept it off until he died at age 80. Inadvertently, he incorporated the basic findings of the English doctors, including tailoring the amount of food for his age and activity level. He made only a few important and gradual dietary changes and ate three meals a day, along with a bedtime snack. His emphasis on eliminating starch, sugars, and fatty meats in his diet preceded Dr. Atkins by more than 100 years. Banting concluded that exercise was not as important as changing the food that he ate. As successful as it was, Banting’s plan seemed too obvious and simple. As much as his name became synonymous with slimming, he was ridiculed and denounced as a charlatan. The British Medical Society vilified his diet system as -humbug- and the basic principles on which it was based were ignored for another century.
Basic structure of daily foods revealed by Dr Paris in 1826!
Despite all controversy, some headway against obesity was made when Dr. John Ayrton Paris revealed the basic framework for moderate food distribution throughout the day in his book, Treatise on Diet (1826). His daily food framework includes the importance of breakfast, light lunches, and small evening meals. Dr. Paris also emphasized the importance of snacks and was the first to introduce the idea that eating a larger dinner after a day’s work may be more advantageous than eating large lunches.
–Everyone’s diet depends… upon the degrees of exercise, age and rapidity of growth. Usually, one large meal a day, the other light and small in bulk… again depends upon occupation. A light lunch is preferable to two large meals a day. Often a patient arises in the morning without inclination for breakfast but because of his occupation, he is compelled to force down food in order to protect himself against exhaustion latter in the day from lack of food. At least have a biscuit, eggs or toast for breakfast. Snacks become necessary in civilized life. Dinner, the large meal of the day, in this manner may be postponed to 7 PM- writes Dr Paris in 1826.
Obese Individuals Turn to Quackery beginning in the 1890’s
In the last half of the 19th century, both obese people and their physicians turned away from the newly discovered -secret– a big belly was the consequence of excessive eating. Instead, they desperately turned to the use of all kinds of medical quackery, including water, vibration and massage therapy, laxatives, purgatives, electrical and non-electrical corsets and belts, Epsom salts, various tonics, creams, liniments, and pills.
What We Can Lean From the Past:
During the 20th century, science revealed more and greater details about the human body, but some of the most fundamental and simplest truths about weight management seemed to have been lost or have faded into oblivion. Instead, modern-day weight loss methods such as calorie counting, weighing and measuring portions, points, phases, only protein, no carbs, as much fat as desired, no fat at all, whole wheat, natural, light, organic, pre-portioned, frozen meals– along with complicated recipes, diet schemes and specialty foods– took the place of common sense. Diets became restrictive, fundamentalist, ideological, and sometimes even contradictory. Clichés and myths do not help to clear up the issues related to obesity and what to do about it.
Maybe the ideas of the early 19th century London physicians can help you design a successful weight loss plan for 2010. Give their ideas a try. They Work!