Dietary Treatment for Overweight and Obesity - Selected Milestones In The History Of Dieting, Americans' Diets, How Weight-loss Diets Work
fat women century health
We rarely repent of having eaten too little.
Americans have long been consumed with losing weight, seemingly willing to suffer deprivation and to embrace each new diet that debuts—even if the "new diet" is simply a twist on an ages-old weight-loss plan. The fixation with weight loss is so longstanding that even the word diet has assumed a new meaning. Used as a verb, diet means to eat and drink a prescribed selection of foods; however, in the twenty-first century "dieting" is synonymous with an effort to lose weight.
During the nineteenth century, fashionable body shapes and sizes varied from decade to decade, but most periods celebrated plumpness as a sign of health and prosperity and considered being thin a sign of poverty and ill health. At the turn of the twentieth century, rising interest in dieting seemingly coincided with some of the social and cultural changes that would make it necessary—food became increasingly plentiful, and sedentary work and public transportation reduced Americans' levels of physical activity. In Fat History: Bodies and Beauty in the Modern West (New York: New York University Press, 2nd edition, 2002), author Peter Stearns, professor of history and former dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, explained how fat became "a turn-of-the-century target" with anti-fat sentiments intensifying from the 1920s to the present.
Stearns asserted that the contemporary obsession with fat arose in tandem with the dramatic growth in consumer culture, women's increasing equality, and changes in women's sexual and maternal roles. Dieting, with its emphasis on deprivation, self-control, and moral discipline, seemed the perfect antidote to the indulgence of consumer culture, and Stearns contended that "weight morality bore disproportionately on women precisely because of their growing independence, or seeming independence, from other standards."
Fashion trends fueled anti-fat sentiments as women shed the corsets that had created the illusion of narrow waists and aspired to duplicate the wasp-waisted silhouettes by becoming slimmer. The shorter, close-fitting "flapper" dresses of the 1920s revealed women's legs and rekindled their desires to be slender. The emergence of the first actuarial tables (data compiled to assess insurance risk and formulate life insurance premiums) showing the relationship between overweight and premature mortality (death) reinforced the growing sentiment that thinness was the key to health and longevity. Capitalizing on the increasing interest in monitoring and reducing body weight, the new Detecto and Health-O-Meter bathroom scales enabled people to weigh themselves regularly in the privacy of their own homes, as opposed to relying on periodic visits to the physician's office or pharmacy to use the balance scale.