Diet & Weight Loss
Here’s What Weight-Loss Advice Looked Like Nearly 100 Years Ago
Published in the very first issue of Reader’s Digest magazine, the article “How to Regulate Your Weight” is full of diet tips that are surprisingly forward-thinking—along with others that are woefully outdated. Here, key weight-loss lessons we can all re-learn.
On your ideal weight
1920 tip: “Each of us has an ideal weight which is perfectly easy to attain and still easier to retain.”
Today’s update: People might think that because they were always thin growing up, that they can easily get back to that body type later on in life, but our bodies are always changing. “Our weight will fluctuate throughout our lives, and it’s still perfectly possible to incorporate health-promoting behaviors regardless of our body size,” says Alyssa Pike, RD, Manager, Nutrition Communications, International Food Information Council Foundation. “The idea that you can easily manipulate your weight and maintain that size is unrealistic for the majority of people who try to do so.”
1920 tip: “Obesity is much more common than underweight and much more dangerous as we march into middle age.”
Today’s update: It’s more important to focus on someone’s behaviors rather than their body size when evaluating how healthy they are. “People can be healthy or unhealthy in both small and large body sizes depending on their lifestyle,” says Pike.
“Among older people, being underweight can indicate decreased muscle mass and strength, which can lead to frailty, limited mobility, and falls,” says Kris Sollid, RD, Senior Director, Nutrition Communications, International Food Information Council Foundation. “While it seems that having some excess body weight as we age is a good thing, this doesn’t mean being obese is better than being underweight—being obese as we age presents it’s own health issues.” Keep these weight-loss breakthroughs modern doctors wish you knew in mind too.
On what food fits your body type
1920 tip: “The stout person must learn that he has both friends and enemies at the table. His enemies are sugar, bread, cereal, desserts, butter, cream, olive oil, bacon, cocoa, and rich sauces. Among his best friends are lean meats, unsweetened fruits, and green foods.”
Today’s update: “Every person, regardless of body size, would benefit from learning to incorporate all types of foods into their diet without guilt or fear. Once we learn that all foods are allowed, we can focus on foods that make us feel good. Our food choices should be flexible, nourishing and enjoyable,” says Pike.
On second helpings
1920 tip: “Never let willful appetite or mistaken courtesy lead you to take a second helping of such starchy foods as rice, tapioca, macaroni, or potato.”
Today’s update: There isn’t a set rule when it comes to taking second helpings of food. It depends on a lot of different things—some being how much movement or exercise you’ve done over the day and your previous meal. Pike notes that it is important to listen to the hunger and fullness signals your body is giving you to determine how much food you eat in one sitting. “If you still feel hungry after one serving, it’s OK to eat another,” says Pike. “If possible, it’s a good idea to include multiple food groups at each eating occasion.” Also, incorporate these tiny diet changes into your lifestyle to help lose weight.
On your sugar intake
1920 tip: “Limit your sugar to three teaspoons daily.”
Today’s update: Added sugar is one of the worst ingredients you can have in your diet. It can lead to weight gain and diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. It’s important to remember that many foods, such as fruit, contain sugar naturally. The sugar you need to limit is added sugar found in candy and many processed foods. According to the American Heart Association, men should limit their sugar intake to nine teaspoons daily and women six teaspoons.
On exercise increasing your appetite
1920 tip: “When the [average city dweller] goes out for a tramp or a few sets of tennis, the unwonted activity is more likely to increase his appetite than his legitimate demand for food.”
Today’s update: “The idea that someone would not exercise for fear of eating more would signal an unhealthy fear of food,” says Pike. Exercise is a healthy behavior that improves both physical and mental health and can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Learn 50 more things today’s doctors want you to know about losing weight.