You want to reduce?— Well, so did "Slim" Sinclair, who finally took steps, his old duckhunting underwear and Frankenstein’s massage. It’s a laugh
FAT IS like a black eye. It comes fast and feels awkward. Anyway it came fast and felt awkward to me.
All my adult life I’d been a bantamweight, sparring around with the kids at 118. Suddenly, for no good reason at all, I was in the large economy size, complete with paunch and jowls. Especially jowls.
Polite people would say I looked very fit indeed, “But aren’t you taking on a little weight?” Realists began to call me Tubby or Pud or Slim. The Slim part was sarcasm, like they call a hack writer an author, or a radio ham a big producer.
I didn’t mind until the economics began to be bothersome. The economics included new suits and shorts and even socks. In my family we’d gone through all that before. The kids were forever growing out of things, my wife had put on at least 20 pounds after each of four babies and now it was my turn— to grow out of things, I mean.
We reached an arrangement. An agreement. A pact or treaty or contract. Anyhow we were going to reduce . . . but fast. We got out pencil and paper to draw plans. Rigid vigorous plans of self-denial. Nothing w¿is to be left to chance. This was it.
My wife gnawed at her pencil a moment and said desserts should vanish from the table. They were the cause of our middle-age spreads. This was manifestly the bunk because I hadn’t eaten dessert in 20 years. I hate dessert, except maybe cheese or nuts.
Desserts disappeared from the table for a month. They really did. I added two pounds.
We decided to ride horses and bicycles. I added two more pounds. I took on the outline of a bland, bald and benevolent Buddha.
My wife had gone from about 140 to 205. I d gone from 118 to 160. It had all happened at a leisurely pace with her, at top speed with me.
The only reasons I could pin on myself were that I’d quit smoking and quit being a newspaper reporter, and even that proves nothing whatever. I know dozens of bulky reporters. I know one who weighed 300 pounds. He smoked 100 cigarettes a day, but is on shorter fag rations now.
We kept trying. We abolished potatoes and white bread and candy. My own favorite foods, like lima beans and buttered carrots and midnight snacks, all got the heave ho. I put on another two pounds.
It was clear that our own plans for personal weight reduction were dismal failures, so we decided to put ourselves in the hands of people.
This is really quite a decision to reach. Just try putting yourselves in the hands of people sometime and you’ll see for yourself. You surrender personality and right and decision. You become a sort of selfappointed Zombie.
In fact, at the actual moment of putting myself over the barrel I personally withdrew from these noble endeavors. I pointed out that after all I was feeling pretty good; I was the family breadwinner and I had no job. I was not like those fortunate millions who worked for others, with salaries and holidays and sick pay guaranteed. If they chose to reduce by drastic steps and this reducing laid them low with illness, exhaustion, or what not, their pay would go on just the same.
With me, a day laborer in the field of words, it was no work no pay. Now suppose drastic weight control was to flatten me . . . who pays the rent?
My wife nodded with an understanding glance and didn’t say another word.
Six months later she weighed 155; a reduction of a even 50 pounds. I had put on another three pounds, all of it on the front porch. I was a fit subject for aldermanic honors in Chicago.
With no further discussion I decided that I too would put my body in the hands of “people.”
I have since gone through the carrot juice diet and the green grass meal. I’ve been battered and pummelled and hammered. I’ve been in steam rooms where the temperature flirted with 200 deg. I’ve gulped honey, sugar and all-day suckers just before dinner with the idea of crippling my appetite.
And I still gain weight!
At one spot I unashamedly became a cash customer
of a Toronto slimming academy. That was its name . . . a slimming academy. A grandmother ran this place, and she was the bounciest grandma I’ve ever seen or heard of. She positively radiated bounce and confidence and zip. She was tall and slim and eager.
This light-footed woman moved this way and that around her academy, declaring with no hesitation at all that she could cut 80 pounds from a fat man’s bulk or eight inches from a fat woman’s hips. For me, she said, salvation would take a minimum of one month, with two treatments a week, and at the end of that time I’d be a new man.
“What diet do I eat?”
I’m afraid I asked this with the hollow air of a doomed man.
“You eat anything you want, any time you want it and in any quantity you desire.”
“You mean I can have potatoes and white bread and lima beans?”
“Sure. Beer too. Beer and pretzels and salted peanuts. Eat anything. We reduce your weight by machines.”
Scottish caution told me this was an impossibility, but hope argued that the age of miracles may not have passed. I asked how soon I might start.
“I can take you three times a week, starting in six weeks,” Grandma said.
“Six weeks . . . but why six weeks? Why can’t I start tomorrow?”
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Grandma reminded me that there was a war on. She reminded me that Canada was currently enjoying the biggest and busiest boom in weight reduction ever known. She told me that at the very least 50,000 Canadians were taking courses in weight reduction and that these shed an average of three pounds each a week.
This means the disappearance of 75 tons of human suet every week of the year, or about 4,000 long tons a year.
“Well, where does all this weight go?” I asked.
“You are the silliest man . . . don’t you know that we sweep it out, like barbers sweep out falling hair?”
This was clearly a gag answer, so I went my way in search of scientific weight reducing, being told that my name was on a list and I might soon be moved closer to the firing line.
Other spots I visited ranged from posh and hushed salons of high and delicate fragrance to the carefree quarters of slap-happy fighters and ex-fighters.
The technique of reducing was soon shown to fall into three avenues or types. You could become a Spartan, like my wife, and reduce through diet. This was sure-fire but trying on your own nerves and the nerves of others around you. The slimmer you got the worse you felt and made others feel.
You could take steam baths. This would leave you feeling fine but no steam bath maestro will guarantee that weight lost through steam will stay lost. It’s quite liable to come back with interest.
Thirdly you could take the mechanical pound-and-hammer treatment. This, in alliance with diet and perspiration, is said to be as sure as taxation and just about as comfortable.
He Lost Six Tons
My pilgrimage brought a variety of testimonials and guarantees. Benny Stockley, who recently abandoned Toronto’s most carefree reducing emporium, proudly and loudly declared that he personally had reduced the weight of one lone customer by almost six tons.
Since no man in the world’s history ever weighed six tons, or even one ton, I was filled with curiosity.
“Come and I’ll show you,” Ben said.
We drove to his current suburban chummery, or whatever it is, and Ben displayed four suits of woollen underwear built to fit Gargantua. The owner, Ben said, got into all four suits at once and got on one of those bicycles that never get anywhere. He pedalled like crazy for a half hour and then stumbled, perspiring and exhausted, into a steam bath. There he’d take the full blasts and before long he’d stagger out again, at least three pounds lighter than when he began.
Benny had laboriously and scientifically kept a log on the progress of this patient and he had shed an average of three pounds every day for exactly 10 years. His current weight is a mere 289. I know, because I weighed him myself.
My name went down on another waiting list and I went home to find a call from theoriginalslimmingacademy. If I’d take a light breakfast and turn up at 8.30 next morning, complete with a suit of long underwear, I could start the treatment toward a streamlined shape, as charter member of a new class.
Sheepishly I dug out my torn and tattered duck hunter’s underwear,
added a bathing suit and hurried toward salvation.
I was taken to one of those fumigated and sterile booths. Its fragrance was clean and pleasant. It faced six other booths, all empty, and looked out on a busy street.
I got into my tattered suit from the marshlands and duck blinds and stepped out feeling like a show window dummy. The attendant lost her professional composure and burst out laughing. She’d been led to expect the killer of a dozen king cobras and 14 man-eating tigers, or some such, and there stood a bewildered guy in a threadbare suit from the days of Laura Secord.
“It won’t do!” she screamed. “It simply won’t do!”
“What won’t do?”
“That underwear. It has holes in it. It’s got buttons. It’s got a gate that opens in the back. Oscar and Frank will kill it.”
I was bewildered, but the man doesn’t live who can be dignified while standing in tattered underwear in the presence of science and a strange woman.
She beckoned me into the reducing parlor and there, sharp and bright, stood Frank and Oscar. They were chromium-plated machines along the general line of the Iron Maiden, a celebrated medieval torture apparatus.
All I had to do was stand in one of these things, like a mummy in a case, and electricity would do the rest. Specifically electrical massage would work me over in such a way that after two weeks of treatment the fat would start to disappear and keep on as far as I wished it to go . . . say about 80 pounds.
Frank, she said, would roll and knead and quiver my flesh until I tingled from toe to toe. Frank did this with 50 fingers of steel and if there was the slightest tear in my costume Frank would rip the thing off. Also, if he caught a finger in a hair he’d tear that hair out by the roots.
So I was taken back to the fragrant booth and there given a streamlined suit of sterile underwear, which I had to enter from the top with giggling help. No buttons, no flap at the back, no holes or openings of any kind. I was securely encased.
As it turned out this costume was made for a woman and it seems that women have their bulges in different places. I had an empty cavity in the hips but soon split the shoulders.
When I went back to the salon Oscar and Frank were both ready.
The attendant explained that these two fat-killers usually worned as a team. A client got in each of them, without shelter from each other, and the two machines went to work.
Women, she said, practically demanded company while taking their treatment but men were bashful. Men preferred to suffer in solitude. She had called numerous old hands at the weight reduction game but all had declined to appear with a freshman.
At last, after much clicking of bolts, I was all set to go. My right hand was placed over a switch in case Frank happened to get too fresh, and away he went.
Up and down, from ankle to Adam’s apple, Frank squeezed and pinched and crushed. The immediate effect was both pleasant and stimulating. It was a barber’s head rub extended to the whole body.
The steel springs were tireless and
remorseless, yet gentle. The blood began to run more freely. The hip bulge where your belt catches began to grow warm and tingly. Soon the hips were sore, and I said so. The attendant adjusted the springs to give me an added force on the paunch with less on the hips.
“You feel better already,” she said. “I know how it is with arthritis.”
I’d never had arthritis in my life.
“The big advantage of all this is that your face stays young,” she said.
“Take a girl who has a couple of babies and takes on 20 or 40 pounds. She doesn’t like that. Then another baby giver her 30 pounds more. Now she’s way overweight. She starts dieting to take that weight off and it comes off the wrong places, such as her neck. Her cheeks get hollow and her neck gets stringy and red and she looks all worn down.
“This kind of treatment takes the weight away from the places you want it taken. I got three clients who’ve each taken off 80 pounds. Nice girls, they are. Warworkers. I got a girl that came here and said: ‘Eva, you know what? ... I want to take exactly eight inches off my hips. Can you do it?’—I did it in three months. Easy. Frank never fails.”
All this time Frank was putting the pressure on me. I seemed to have had enough but the attendant said I’d only had a mild beginning. I should have the steel fingers tightened closer to get the full treatment. Then the fat would really melt.
Somehow that idea did not sit well with me. I was very thoughtful while I dressed. After all, here for many years I’d spent a great deal of money on feeding myself. What did I have to show for it but a little rubber tire around my middle? Why, that rubber tire had cost me money—lots of it. It was the outward and visible sign that I was a success in life. It was as good an advertisement as a diamond ring— only bigger. And here a mere chit of a girl was talking about melting it away.
I decided that I had been rash. This business of reducing required more consideration than I had given it. It behooved me to look at it from all angles.
To tell the truth I’m still looking from all angles.
In my researches I’ve found that the atmosphere of every so-called slimming salon is dignified to the stuffed shirt phase on first examination, but some of them become quite hilarious as the course goes on.
At the spot where Oscar and Frank do their stuff gaiety prevails. That’s because two women in men’s underwear face each other while a mechanical gadget gives them the tickles.
Dignity is impossible under those conditions and before long each client is telling the other just what happened to make her get fat.
Babies get blamed for at least half the fat being shed and husbands get blamed for most of the rest.
Husbands, you see, demand good meals, bulky meals and frequent meals. The wife, who does the cooking, can’t resist dipping into the food, even though she knows it will put lumps where no lumps should be. Anyhow that’s her story and she repeats it over and over. The attendants, who are masters of diplomacy, gravely listen and enthusiastically agree with everything said.
Canada, I am told, has 1,320 establishments and organizations devoted wholly or partly to weight Continued on page 43
Continued from page 40 reduction, and 80% of their clients are women.
In the elaborate establishments there are specialists on the reduction of hips, busts, abdomens and chins. They may also have experts on dictionaries, because the expressions they use are charming. They will advertise “a dynamic, passive exercise featuring electrical impulses to cause a muscular reflection.” At first glance this seems to contain a fair slice of double talk. After a while it all seems to fit into proper pattern. Women seem to love it, and most such organizations have waiting lists.
I tried to invade these ultraposh temples of slimming but was told with withering finality that they were for women only. I therefore made contact with an agent informateur, who told me that treatment lasted one hour, of which 40 minutes were spent on the passive exerciser, followed by 15 minutes of massage that was positively thrilling, and a five-minute swish-down with a needle spray which was more exhilarating than your first kiss. At a less posh establishment I had a try at the spray and it was, beyond argument, the most effective goad to the circulation I’d ever felt. It was something like a rawhide whiplash laid across the back and sides. Not painful but tremendously stimulating.
Slimming academies for women unashamedly present themselves as weight reduction spots, but those for men usually masquerade under the label of health, athletic or sports clubs.
Corbett Dennenay, one of Canada’s real hockey greats, runs one such spot at Toronto’s Central YMCA. Glen MacMaster had one in Vancouver and specialized on weight lifters. The Pacific coast was boom town for the little men who could hoist twice or three times their own weight, but these mighty atoms seemed to go “hippy” sooner than the mill run of citizen. Since the weight of the lifter is as closely examined as the iron he hoists, contestants would often plead with Glen to get them to scratch on short notice—say one day.
MacMaster says you can cut any man 10 to 12 pounds in a single day, through rubber girdles, semistarvation and deep perspiration, but often this is damaging to health. No permanent and reliable weight reduction can be done under 40 days and nights, and that calls for a fat-free diet.
Every establishment I contacted agreed in this view and most will refuse to take a client for only one or two treatments. Par in Toronto seems to be a course averaging three a week for a month, with costs ranging from $12 to $50 and averaging about $28. There are no guarantees with any of these courses but the client can’t fail to feel better. Certainly I did, although I’ve still got paunch and jowls.
Of the “reducers” I talked with only one was confident that weight reduction could be brought about by mechanical means without diet.
That one was very full of confidence, offering to accept me, or anyone else, and whittle us down to size on a no-pay guarantee if they failed. However he did warn that his methods might hurt like the very devil. In fact he sadistically declared that he’d probably beat my brains out. “But if you want to get thin we’ll make you thin.” I passed.
If anybody asks me, I’m still reducing—theoretically anyway. For I’m at any rate looking at the business from ail angles—before I lose all of my own.