I was at the Wellcome Collection last week for a talk by historian Louise Cockcroft, author of Calories and Corsets: A History of Dieting over 2,000 Years.
The slightly depressing moral is that people have been thinking up more or less bizarre ways to lose weight over centuries, and most of them don't work.
I was struck by the fact that the low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets which have become enormously fashionable in recent years (Atkins, Dukan, etc) had already been invented in the early 19th century. Jean Brillat-Savarin, whose name was mainly known to me from Brillat-Savarin cheese (and gateau Savarin) was a French foodie who insisted that avoiding carbohydrates is the secret of good health.
In his 1825 bestseller The Physiology of Taste, his response to his critics was: "Very well then; eat! Get fat! Become ugly and thick, and asthmatic, finally die in your own melted grease."
Strong words indeed. I can see why you'd lose weight on Brillat-Savarin's diet - if you can stick to it - simply because sugar is banned, along with cakes, biscuits, pastries and so on. But I don't think I'll be giving up pasta or potatoes any time soon.
|Bread: banned by Brillat-Savarin, Atkins and Dukan. Picture: rprata|