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Diet Advice from the 16th Century

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We may think of restricted diets as a modern invention but the reverse is actually the case. Long before Weight Watchers were telling people to count points, people had cottoned on to the idea that eating less may be healthy.

When examining the diets of yesteryear, it’s important to remember that what works for some, will not work for others. What we deem as unhealthy may be perfectly healthy for someone else.

With that caveat in mind, today we will be looking at Luigi Cornaro, a 16th century Venetian nobleman who lived to the age of 82 (or 99 depending who you believe) and ate only twelve ounces (340g) of solid food a day! What’s more he published a series of books on the secret of longevity.

So who was this mystical Venetian and why did he eat so little?

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. 

Charles Atlas’s ‘Special Secret for Rapidly Building Enormous Power’

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When Atlas Wasn’t Playing Tug-of-War he was giving out Diet Tips

“I realize you are anxious to build up great strength and power as soon as possible. Here is a simple secret which should help give you the results you hope for.”

Charles Atlas, Mail Order Workout Programme, Lesson Two, c.1930s

 In 1921 Charles Atlas won Bernarr McFadden’s ‘Most Perfectly Developed Man Competition’. In 1922, he won again and by this time McFadden ceased holding the competition. Rumour has it McFadden stopped because he felt Atlas would win every time. By the end of the 1920s Atlas was marketing his own unique mail order workout programme aimed at delivering fast results to his customers. The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man promised to turn his weak students into dynamic man, just as Atlas had done with himself. In just 12 basic lessons,  Atlas covered everything from diet and training to the right mind-set for building an awesome physique.

In the second lesson of the Atlas programme, aspiring muscle men (and women) were given a secret muscle-building programme by Atlas. It revolved around a single food…a ‘super food’ in modern day parlance.