Attention Women: Left out because you’re too skinny? Try Wate-On!

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Societal pressure on women is often a talking point.

Indeed previously on this website we’ve looked at slimming crazes dating back to the early 1900s when women worldwide were encouraged to lose weight and ‘become happy’.

Well it seems that the pressure on women to conform to a certain body type works both ways as the following set of ads from the 1980s demonstrates.

Once upon a time wate-On, an artificial weight gain product, was marketed to American women concerned with being too skinny. Shown below are a series of ads detailing the Wate-On message to gain weight, be merry and most importantly, be popular.

Needless to say I’m sure the conflicting messages about being too skinny and being too large caused many a headache for the 1980s woman. 

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Judging from the ads and the nutritional information put forward by weight on, you would be forgiven for thinking the product was healthy. After all, the active ingredients in the product seemed perfectly healthy

Active Ingredients: Per 2 Tablespoons (30 mL):

  • Total Fat (Saturated Fat 2.5g) 15g;
  • Sodium 10 mg;
  • Total Carbohydrate (Sugar 2g) 5g;
  • Vitamin A 2000 IU;
  • Vitamin C 20 mg;
  • Vitamin D 200 IU;
  • Vitamin E 15 IU;
  • Thiamin 0.75 mg;
  • Riboflavin 0.51 mg;
  • Niacin 10 mg;
  • Vitamin B6 1 mg;
  • Vitamin B12 3 mcg;
  • Biotin 0.015 mg;
  • Pantothenic Acid 5 mg;
  • Iron 9 mg;
  • Zinc 7 mg;
  • Copper 1 mg.

You begin to encounter issues when you look at the actual ingredients making up this product. It’s a veritable who’s who of today’s current nutritional ‘bad boys’ (Vegetable oils, sugar, additives and preservatives).

Inactive Ingredients:

  • Hydrogenated Stabilized Soybean Oil;
  • Water;
  • Sugar;
  • Propylene Glycol;
  • Polyoxyethylene 20 Sorbitan Monolaurate;
  • Sorbitan Monostearate;
  • Xanthan Gum;
  • Methyl Paraben;
  • Sorbic Acid;
  • Artificial Flavoring;
  • Propyl Paraben;
  • Ferric Citrate;
  • Niacinamide;
  • Panthenol;
  • Pyridoxine Hydrochloride;
  • Riboflavin 5 Phosphate;
  • Thiamin Hydrochloride;
  • Calciferol;
  • Vitamin A Palmitate;
  • Ascorbic Acid;
  • dl-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate;
  • Biotin FFC;
  • Copper Sulfate;
  • Zinc Oxide;
  • Artificial Color;
  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene;
  • Cyanocobalamin.

It’s quite a laundry list isn’t it?

Well remarkably Wate-On was a popular product in its day, having been established in the 1960s, the product lasted for several decades before falling out of favour. Remarkably the company never targeted a male audience, which as Charles Atlas had shown, was perhaps more interested in gaining weight than women.

Semantics aside, the Wate-On advertisements show just how fickle the idea of an ‘ideal’ female form actually is, something that tends to be forgotten nowadays.

6 comments

  1. Found this while doing a little nostalgia searching. I’ve always been thin. As a boy, back in the late 50’s/early 60s, my mother tried giving me Wate-on. It was vile stuff and I don’t think I finished the bottle. She also tried yeast cakes & chocolate (suggested by a lady in the store) before giving up and accepting that I was just a naturally skinny kid.

    I’m surprised it was sill around in the 80s and I must have missed any campaign to fatten women up here in the US back then. I see Wate-On is still available. I saw a couple of online stores selling it in Nigeria of all places. I don’t know if it’s still sold here.

    The whole culture thing with weight is bizarre. I remember the Charles Atlas “98 lb weakling” thing from the 50s. I don’t ever recall a time when thin was in for men, even in the days of Twiggy. I don’t envy women the swings in body ideals every decade or so.

    1. Hi Larry, I hope all is well today. It’s amazing how these things fluctuate so much societally? As you rightly point out, women have been told to put on and lose weight almost simultaneously. I can’t think of men being told thin in in, at least when it came to fitness. Heck even those coming before Atlas were concerned with adding good flesh/muscle.

      Now the serious question, how edible do you think the Nigerian Wate-On is? Given production seems to have ended in the 1980s I have my doubts!

  2. Hi; Sorry for the belated reply-I don’t check that email often. Apparently it’s available in Bahrain also, odd. The only info I can see is the package image which says “registered trademark waytone.” I doubt there’s any connection with the original company. Someone may have bought/stolen the trademark and is making it in China or who knows where.

    I did a quick search and found that being “fat” is considered “a symbol of status and power” in Nigeria according to a BBC report. That might explain why such a product is popular there. Humans are funny animals.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6904640.stm

    https://www.konga.com/product/wate-on-emulsion-for-weight-gain-450ml-3993161

    1. No worries at all Larry. This is awesome, and actually quite hilarious. Thanks for passing it on. Regardless of its copyright/originality, I’d love to see a return to it! If nothing else the advertisements would be priceless

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