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Bangalore-based Rashmi Vasudeva's journalism has appeared in many Indian and international publications over the past decade. A features writer with over nine years of experience heading a health and fitness supplement in a mainstream Indian newspaper, her niche areas include health, wellness, fitness, food and nutrition. Her articles have appeared in various publications including Mint-Wall Street Journal, Deccan Herald (mainstream South Indian newspaper), Smart Life (Health magazine from the Malayala Manorama Group of publications), YourStory.com (India's media technology platform for entrepreneurs), Avantika (a noir arts and theatre magazine), ZDF (a German public broadcasting company) and others. With a Masters in Globalisation and Media Studies from Europe, she has also dabbled in academics, travel writing and socio-cultural studies. Mother to a frisky toddler, she hums 'wheels on the bus' while working and blogs about her life and loves at www.rashmi-vasudeva.com
It is not very often that a professor of Food and Nutrition pens a light-hearted jamboree about the history of diets. This piece by Melissa Wdowik is such breezy fun for anyone who has ever tried to go on a diet. Yes, that is pretty much all of us.
Having done a college project on diet history, I was familiar with William Banting’s ‘Letter on Corpulence’ with which Melissa begins her article. Considered to be the first ever book on diets, Banting wrote it in 1864 after he replaced his diet of bread, sugar and potatoes with meat, fish and vegetables. It is a solemn, severe book that is warmly funny because it is so earnest. Consider this little extract: “...still I could not stoop to tie my shoe, so to speak…which only the corpulent understand; I have been compelled to go down stairs slowly backwards, to save the jarr of weight upon the ankle...”
The author goes back and forth in history for more yarns on fad diets. Some are weird, some surprisingly doable, while some are certainly of the 'don't try this at home' variety. Take the case of William the Conqueror, who found himself to be so overweight that he decided to go on a liquid diet. The liquid was, er, alcohol to the exclusion of almost anything else! Poet Lord Byron too was an advocate of the liquid diet, but his liquids were vinegar and water.
This, of course, came back to us as the Apple Cider Vinegar diet. Another horrifying liquid diet that became popular in 1976 was appropriately named the 'Last Chance Diet' and consisted of gulping down a low-calorie liquid few times a day. This ‘liquid’ was prepared from a blend of hide, horns, tendons and the like. Unsurprisingly, several of this diet’s followers died.
There are many such curious anecdotes to browse through, but the larger point the professor is making is that when it comes to losing weight, vanity has always defeated common sense. And that there really is no short cut for weight loss — everything always comes back to a balanced diet and exercise.