attack_laurel (attack_laurel) wrote,

Don't hate the diet, hate the writer. It's easy!

Continuing with the sales enticements:

14k gold plate earrings and sterling silver earrings for those with nickel-sensitive ears.
Nightcap pattern samples for you to look at (Reconstructing History will have them) and pre-order.
A small number of hats (Eadric's booth).
Dress rosettes.

But enough of the sales pitch - As you may know (or might not - I don't remember the last time I mentioned it), I collect old diet books - the more outrageous, the better. I also collect old medical textbooks, pre-1920s, and they often mention diet too, especially if they're textbooks on "female" things.

No, I don't know why I collect them. They just fascinate me with their authoritative air and complete wrongness about everything.

I recently scored a book called "Eat and Grow Thin", that apparently is so popular, it's still in print. Which makes me laugh in horror, because it's a prime example of how fat hate has been with us for an awfully long time (EAGT was originally published in 1914. My copy is from 1916). The menus themselves are called "The Mahdah Menus", written by "Mahdah", but it is really all put together by the person who claims he only wrote the foreword, Vance Thompson.

Allow me to pad out my post like a high school junior with an essay to write for history class, and quote extensively from some of the more egregious passages in the book:

"The fate of nations depends upon how they are fed." This historic remark was made a century ago-shortly after the battle of Waterloo-by that meditative Frenchman, Brillat-Savarin. He had seen the mighty French empire fall to pieces in the hands of a fat Napoleon. He had foretold the sad event as he watched the young hero take on paunch and jowls-and join the grotesque band of the gastrophori.

Soooo... Napoleon lost at Waterloo because he was fat. Not because he overreached his grasp, not because the Duke of Wellington played a brilliant counter-attack against the French, but because he was fat.

But that was just the start:

...Mankind went on being fat. It did not want to be fat; but it did want to sit at table and eat of roasted and boiled and stewed and baked and-withgloomy resignation-it accepted the hulking consequences. And fat generation followed fat generation in a procession, at once tragic and grotesque, over the quaking earth.

Throw a little misogyny into the mix:

One thinks of the women one has known-loved perhaps-who have vanished forever, drowned in an ocean of turbulence and tallow; of actresses who filled one's soul with shining dreams-and now the dreams are wrecked on huge promontories...

And then we get to the "science", the bit that I buy these books for. The writer's science is... interesting:

It is a melancholy fact that one is what one is born to be.

(this, by the way, is the justification for ignoring the plight of all those icky poor people crying for succour - they were born to be poor, how sad, but there you are - what can one do, after all?)

One's destiny is written more or less clearly on one's face.

(It is?) (insert "kick me" joke here.)

Thus, statisticians aver, out of a hundred persons who die of consumption, ninety have brown or fair hair, a long face and a sharp nose.

So, if I dye my hair and have a nose job, I won't die of consumption. It absolutely has nothing to do with infectious disease at all. And "brown or fair hair"? That describes 90% of the population.

(We redheads never get consumption. *smug*)

This calculation may not be scrupulously exact,

(ya think?)

but there is less doubt to the assertion that out of a hundred who are corpulent, there are ninety with short faces, round eyes and blunt noses.

Did he just describe a pig face? I think he did. Asshole. Oh, and brace yourself, here comes more misogyny:

Young and beautiful a girl passes-she is dainty, rosy, alert, with a roguish nose and adorable cheeks; but one knows that a little further down the road of life she will be seized upon by the Occult Powers and muffled in fat-for that destiny is written in her round, young face.

I can only assume that the fat is lurking in a dark alleyway, waiting to pounce at the worst possible moment. But there are Occult Powers at work - if only she had listened to that fortune she got at the Chinese restaurant that said "do not go downtown today", she might still be thin. Poor thing.

So our ridiculous author then goes on to tell a couple of cautionary tales about being fat and being fat, losing weight, and getting fat again, and THEN he tells us all why all the other cures won't work. I seem to recall this trick being the cornerstone of all the failed diet books I have seen in the thrift stores over the years. But his descriptions move me to paroxysms:

All the violent anti-obesity cures are touched with this defect-they work no permanent result and, in addition, though they may destroy the fat they leave the body shriveled, wrinkled, uncomely. One might as well be fat as to walk the earth in a fat man's misfit skin.

Yes, fat people are so disgusting, that even when they lose weight, their former fatness is worn like a brand upon their skin, so that all may know they committed the SIN OF FAT.

What can we do? Oh tell us, tell us please:

And is there no cure, at once suave and certain?


There certainly is; and to make it known this little book has been written by an expert in food values-Doctrix doctorum.

(Doctrix Doctorum basically translates as "Female doctor Male doctors". I think what he meant was "this is supposed to work for men and women", but I guess he felt the latin sounded better, even if it made no sense.)

(Or the author is a hermaphrodite.)

(EDIT:  Check in the comments; apparently my latin is wrong, not his.  Thanks for the correction, caprinus !)

By the way, the diet in this book is your basic low carb/no carb diet; it's heavy on the seafood, which basically guarantees its failure for most people today who are not big fans of stewed oysters at every meal, but other than that, it's as sound as any other protein-based diet. The only real giggles in the actual food descriptions are that he keeps referring to grain-based foods as carbonaceous, which does not mean what he thinks it means.

Mind you, he's still down on the fat all through this section; his word usage becomes positively brobdignagian in his efforts to find ways to say "fat is ugly". Though he slips once or twice and gets too pleased with himself:

We are a vain lot of people, we admit-we flaunt our slim comeliness in the face of fat humanity and smile, rather self-consciously, when Monsieur Cent-Kilos and his wife go by, for our ideal of plastic beauty is the panther and not the pig.

Don't you just want to smack him? But wait, there's more:

I lay down my pen and cross the floor and look into the tall mirror; I am confronted by the reflection of a slight man, slim-waisted, with narrow, beautiful legs-and I admire his lean gracility;

Oh, shut up.

He then gets personal, and starts ragging on G.K. Chesterton:

The worst of being fat is that it makes one ridiculous. The witty man, doomed-I am thinking of course of Mr. Gilbert K. Chesterton-to walk the world in a suit of tallow, tried to fend off the laughter of others by laughing first at himself. It is heroic and pathetic. Mr. Chesterton (wearing a bracelet for a ring) is a subject for tears, not laughter-jest he ever so waggishly! No; the fat man may clown and slap himself and wag a droll forefinger, but he is not merry at all; and if one should sink a shaft down to his heart-or drive a tunnel through to it-one would discover that it is a sad heart, black with melancholy. Down there, seep under the billowy surface of the man, all is gloom.

Fuck you. Chesterton was worth 1.3 million, and was a friend of George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, , Bertrand Russell, and Clarence Darrow. You, Vance Thompson, hung out with French assholes and wrote really dreadful poetry.

But back to the interesting science of this diet. There's a big list of don'ts:

Pork, ham, bacon and the fat of any meat.
Bread, biscuits, crackers, anything made of the flour of wheat, corn, rye, barley, oats, etc, Cereals and "breakfast foods" must never be eaten.

(That's a big "screw you!" to Mr. Kellogg, right there.)

Rice, macaroni, potatoes, corn, dried beans, lentils.
Milk, cream, cheese, butter.
Olive oils, or grease of any kind.
Pies, cakes, puddings, pastries, custards.
Iced creams, sirup-sweetened soda-water, etc.
Candies, bobbons, sweets.
Wines, beers, ales, spirits.

Yes, you may have no spirit on this diet. No spirit at all.

You will notice that this diet is much more severe than Atkins - you can't have fat, and you can't eat pig. No pig for you! Pigs are fat and piggy, and a metaphor for fat people so we hate them!

Then it tells us that fat people sleep too much, and we shouldn't take naps.  Those fat, piggy people, with their naps and their milk!  We hates them, we does, my carbonaceous-refusing precious!

And, he finishes his "foreword" (which is 3/5ths of the book) with this last patronizing little thought:

Above all, be cheerful.  Try and SEE yourself growing thin.  Remember the mind exercises a powerful influence on the body.  And do not forget that an indolent, indoor life-the breakfast in bed and afternoon-nap kind of life-slowly but surely increases flesh.  In addition to eating the right food try and lead the right life.

Yes, because fat people lead the wrong life, for they are morally as well as physically piggy!  Piggypiggypiggypigs!

And what can we eat?  To read his menus is to realize that he comes from another age.  A typical dinner menu listed in the book is more than I eat in a day:

Mussels Marinara or fish in season
Dolmas (Mutton, Turkish fashion)
Broiled Mushrooms
Roast Fowl with Aspic jelly
Coleslaw (with boiled dressing)
Stewed apples, with lemon and cinnamon flavoring.

Seriously?  What was lunch that day?  Well, here is where it all becomes clear how the weight is lost:

Minced Turkey
Fruit salad
Stewed Prunes.

That Roast Fowl with Aspic jelly is going to go right through you if you eat enough stewed prunes.

What do we really learn from this?  Well, I have repeatedly been shown one valuable lesson, and I have taken it to heart:

 Diet authors are stupid.  Ignore everything they say, they just hate fat people and are trying to kill them with ridiculous and often disgusting diets.

Love your body - all of it.  The fat bits are you, too, and if you hate it, you will just be sad. 

And sad fat is just depressing.  Here, have some Boiled Tongue with tomato sauce. 

That should cheer you right up.

(Note:  Edited to remove ableist language.)
Tags: diet, good times, humour, shop

  • Mid Semester Break

    Oh, my children, Lo, I am feeling the effects of the season. Like the French and Portugese do before Lent, I am feeling the need for a time of fun…

  • I will do it my way, but that does not mean your way is not valid...

    Ugh; arms - lead. typos - numerous. mood - decidedly weird. post - rambling. I appreciate whomever of my readers who held back and didn't post…

  • F U LJ

    I am moving my blog. the Russian LJ anti-LGBTQ policies are not cool, and I will not support them. [Edit] I am moving to WordPress, and I'll be…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic
    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
← Ctrl ← Alt
Ctrl → Alt →
← Ctrl ← Alt
Ctrl → Alt →

  • Mid Semester Break

    Oh, my children, Lo, I am feeling the effects of the season. Like the French and Portugese do before Lent, I am feeling the need for a time of fun…

  • I will do it my way, but that does not mean your way is not valid...

    Ugh; arms - lead. typos - numerous. mood - decidedly weird. post - rambling. I appreciate whomever of my readers who held back and didn't post…

  • F U LJ

    I am moving my blog. the Russian LJ anti-LGBTQ policies are not cool, and I will not support them. [Edit] I am moving to WordPress, and I'll be…