Kolata follows a group of University of Pennsylvania research subjects in a two year quest to lose weight on either the Atkins diet or a regular low-calorie diet. She takes us through a tour of all the popular diets in known history, from Fletcherizing (or chewing your food until it has no taste) to Banting (original low-carb dieter, and “dieting” became synonymous with “banting”). And she ends with a chapter on Fat Wars, a look at how we create unrealistic beauty ideals of super-thin while our bodies are evolving to be heavier. Fat is not necessarily unhealthy, is the takeaway I gleaned from the last chapter. The fat industry turns its back on any studies that refute the idea that fat is unhealthy; in fact, fat may be healthier.
Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste (self published in 1825) warned against diet fads and in particular about drinking vinegar to lose weight (popularized by Lord Byron in his epic struggle to shed pounds). It also planted the seeds for the low-carb/no-carb craze popular in the Atkins diet most recently, and other incarnations through the ages.
After the flapper craze, everyone wanted to be rail thin, so American went on a diet in the 1920s in the height of the Great Depression. Calorie counts were printing on menus. Interesting to note the parallels as we return to calorie counts on national chains, during our own Great Recession.
Contests arose, a la Biggest Loser – 1921 contest in NYC among 50 fat women to see who could lose the most weight in a month on an Atkins-like high protein diet.
Binge eating disorder – binge at least 2x week for 6 months and feel guilty, eat rapidly, eat until uncomfortably full, eat when you’re not hungry, eat alone so no one can see what you eat. Listed in psychiatry manual as a “provisional diagnosis” that needs more study.
Recommended daily allowance of protein for women: 38 grams
sub=The New Science of Weight Loss—and the Myths and Realities of Dieting