Battle of the Bulges
Don’t let your waistline shorten your lifeline. You can reduce . . . it’s mainly a matter of won’t power
W. W. BAUER, M.D.
IN THIS hemisphere slenderness is a fetish. Take the case of the high-school girl who wrote this plaintive letter to a medical authority:
“I am 17 and, according to the scale in front of the five-and-ten, I weigh exactly what I should for my height.
‘What’s the quickest way I can lose 15 pounds?” Even when their total weight is reasonably saiisfactory, our womenfolk are always finding something wrong with its distribution, and the doctor is asked by his feminine patients how they may reduce their hips, slim their ankles and diminish their calves. Even man, less preoccupied with his figure, wants usually to halt his equatorial expansion short of excessive inflation.
What is normal weight anyway? It’s true there are tabulations giving an exact weight for your height and age, but the trouble is, they don’t take into consideration personal differences in body structure. Family tendencies and racial trends make a great difference. The long, lean Scandinavian will have a hard time coming up to the same figures in the height and weight tables toward which the stocky Latin or Teuton must strive down. A woman of 35, five feet four inches tall, is listed in the official tables at 131 pounds, but she may be below that figure or above it and still be normal.
The weight at which you look best and feel best is probably your normal weight, regardless of what the tables say. If it is not more than 10% below or more than 20% above the figures in the table; you have additional assurance that it is probably a satisfactory weight for you. Much needless starvation and a great many heartbreaks could be avoided by making sure that one is really overweight before starting to reduce.
How and why do people get fat? There are three principal reasons: organic disease, underexercise and overeating—and the greatest of these is overeating. Let’s look at them in order.
There really are some persons who have a stronger tendency to grow fat than others. Usually it is an indication of hereditary trends involving principally the glands of internal secretion.
Such glandularly fat people usually suffer from deficiencies of one or more of the pituitary, thyroid and sex glands. These three glands have much to do with the body economy, and with some lesser help from the adrenal glands they largely control sex and its secondary manifestations, including weight.
In the absence of certain secretions from the
pituitary there is retarded development at adolescence. Usually it is more noticeable in boys than in girls, but it may occur in either sex. The child fails to show the expected sex differentiations which are part of growing up. The shoulders are narrow, hips wide. There are large pads of fat over the hips, the abdomen, the back and the thighs. This fatness is particularly conspicuous because often the face, hands and the feet seem exceptionally small by contrast. In boys the development is typically effeminate. No amount of dieting or exercise will help in such a situation. Only timely treatment, overcoming the secretory deficiency, will be of any avail.
Thyroid deficiencies also cause a tendency to fatness. Unlike pituitary overweight it consists of a coarsening of the skin and hair, with deposits of water-logged fat under the skin, general sluggishness and mental retardation. If it occurs at adolescence, there is retarded sexual development. This condition responds promptly to feeding of thyroid substance or its active principle, thyroxine. There is no use trying to starve or exercise such patients into the semblance of a normal figure.
In the years when women experience a change of life and men progress more gradually into middle age there comes a natural trend toward heavier weight, especially in families where this has been a tendency through several generations. Sometimes this, too, may be due to glandular deficiencies, and,
if so, can be treated only on that basis and not by diet or exercises.
These years begin, with some variations, around the fortieth. The body processes slow up. That is when the baseball pitcher’s arm remains good and the slugger can hit better than ever, but both are benched because their legs won’t take it any more. Endurance is lowered. The process of living— building and destroying tissue—assumes a more leisurely pace. The internal secretion glands, particularly the big team consisting of pituitary, thyroid, sex glands and adrenals, become less active. This makes for smaller demands on energy, and greater storage of good substances as fat.
If the food habits of the more active years are continued, the deposit of fat is even greater. Judicious treatment with gland products (hormones) is likely to be necessary, as well as careful attention to the diet. Few middle-aged persons can keep the slenderness of youth, and none should wreck their health in the vain effort to do so.
Yes, there are glandular types, but the chances are that you are not one of them. The plain and disagreeable truth is that if you are overweight it is undoubtedly because you eat too much. Exercise may have a slight influence, and we might as well get this settled right now.
According to a study made by Arthur H Steinhaus and Florence M. Grunderman, these interesting relationships exist between the food you eat and the exercise you take:
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If you eat one large pat of butter more than you really need, daily for 43 days, the butterfat will supply you with one extra pound of personal fat. If you are determined to exercise enough to burn up this extra pound, nere are some of the exercises you would have to do:
The most strenuous mental work you could possibly perform would have to be continued, without resting, for 2,160 hours to work off one pound of fat, which is equal to about a pound and a quarter of body weight. Sit at your desk and write; that would take only 154 hours to get rid of the extra pound. Or eat steadily for 154 hours and consume the same amount of energy as by writing for that length of time. Of course the food you would take in would set you back even farther.
A carpenter could make little faster progress by working four seven-and-ahalf-hour days to compensate for an extra pound of body fat. Twenty-two hours of laundress work, playing billiards for 32 hours, or dancing for 20 hours would do it. If you are really in a hurry to lose, you might ride horseback at a gallop for nine hours to lose a pound.
If you are musically inclined, you can play the piano at a Mendelssohn sonata pace for 77 hours or a Liszt tarantella for 30 hours. Sure, any of these exercises will work off one pound of body fat. What they will do to your appetite had better not be mentioned here.
If you are in a truly mad rush to work that pound away, you can fence, or drill on the parallel bars for eight hours, or walk 35 miles. If you go for calisthenics, you can do 5,714 push-ups.
Discouraging, isn’t it? How much good then do you think you can get out of the ordinary gymnasium workout advocated by the health club or health farm run by a retired heavyweight prize fighter? Oh, but you say that you definitely lose weight every time you take such a workout. Of course you do, you sweat out water. Then you grow thirsty, take a drink . . . and there you are, round and round. Not to say rotund!
There are only two satisfactory reducing exercises. Either one taken by itself is effective. Used together they can’t fail. Here they are: (a) while still hungry, place your palms against the edge of the dining table and push yourself steadily away; (b) when offered a second helping, move the head vigor-
ously from side to side. Repeat as required.
It is easy to get overweight. It is a long, hard struggle to lose it. First you must know the cause of overweight. No use starving if you need medical treatment. No use taking drugs when what you need is diet.
Let’s Study Diet First
Strange as it may seem, one may actually have the foods he really likes on a reducing diet, if he will simply learn how. The intake of energy foods is estimated in heat units known as calories.
Practically all common foods have been analyzed to ascertain their value in calories. There are several excellent books showing the caloric values of common foods and their contribution of protein, starch, sugars, fats, vitamins and minerals to the nutritional pattern.
On 3,000 calories a day most people will stay at the same weight. A reducing diet is usually around 1,500 calories daily. The main question of melting this too, too solid flesh comes down to will power or, maybe, won’t power! There is nothing mysterious about the reducing process. In the absence of organic disease it comes down to establishing a balance between income and outgo which will cause a slow but steady loss of weight until your best weight is reached. Then readjust to maintain that weight. For those who find self-restraint too difficult, hospital treatment is effective, providing the relatives don’t cheat. Counting calories is like counting golf strokes; a dishonest score doesn’t change the facts.
All reducing must be done gradually. Spectacular starvation which takes off seven or eight pounds a week is foolish and possibly disastrous. It is weakening and upsetting. Worse, it leaves wrinkles! The limit of safe and sane reducing is two pounds a week. This should be preceded by a medical examination and should be carried out under close medical supervision both of the person and the diet.
There are as many ideas about reducing diets as there are people reducing. A famous Chicago physician tells of a pre-war Vienna specialist being entertained by his Chicago colleagues in a restaurant specializing in Viennese cooking. He ate prodigiously of the rich and varied diet, washed down his food with several glasses of beer and accepted a second helping of dessert. When the coffee was served he reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a tiny vial from which he shook out on his enormous palm a tablet of
saccharin, which he solemnly dropped into his coffee. His personal physician, he explained, had advised him to go slow on sugar.
The typical reducing patient, man or woman, is likely to act much the same way. After refusing bread or potatoes or both at mealtimes, he will sneak off to the drugstore and order a banana split or a hot chocolate fudge marshmallow sundae with nuts and whipped cream. Assurances are given over the bridge table that certain foods are fattening, and I know one lady who would eat no bread but who enjoyed her olives and her avocado, unconscious that both are high in fat content.
All foods are fattening in so far as they provide material of nutritive value. They differ largely in their bulk. A large pat of butter or a cube of Canadian cheese measuring a little more than an inch in each dimension will furnish as much food value as three and a half cups of chopped cabbage or one four-and-a-half-inch head of cauliflower. It is quite easy to eat too many pats of butter and several cubes of cheese, but try and overeat on cabbage and cauliflower. Four lumps of sugar or one tablespoon of maple syrup or two and a half graham crackers or one shredded wheat biscuit do not seem like much food. But broccoli, string beans, spinach or sauerkraut—it would take two and a half cups of any of these vegetables to equal one of the portions of the more concentrated foods.
Yes, and eight medium olives equal one and two third cups of carrots, four dates equal four medium onions, one tablespoon of honey equals 46 stalks of asparagus five inches long, and one quarter of a chocolate ice-cream soda equals two 10-inch cucumbers. All foods are fattening. The rabbit or the guinea pig would fatten up happily on the vegetables because he would simply keep eating all the time.
This comparison of the energy value of foods contains the secret of a satisfactory reducing diet which will not leave the individual hungry. Emphasis must be placed on the bulkiest foods, which contain much water and indigestible material and little nutrition. But even this is not enough. A good reducing diet must also supply the building blocks, the protein foods, which restore the damage to tissue which is always going on as a part of the life process. The diet must also supply the vitamins, which, although grossly overemphasized, are nevertheless of vital importance. Vitamins are never more important than during reducing. It is the unwise disturbance of dietary balance which make so many reducing diets hazardous.
There is, for example, the so-called Hollywood 18-day diet, proposed by motion picture stars. Originating in California, it naturally emphasized citrus fruits, but it was deficient in proteins and vitamins nevertheless. One Hollywood star announced her reducing diet as orange juice for breakfast, orange juice for lunch, and anything she wanted for dinner. This meant she worked all day with an inadequate supply of energy-generating foodstuffs.
The common practice of omitting bread, potatoes, and other starches from the reducing diet is equally pernicious. The energy foods, which are the sugars, starches and fats, should not be omitted entirely, they should merely be reduced to the point where a small but steady loss in weight will result.
A diet should be something like this:
One may have for breakfast a selection of fruit, cereal, butter, milk, sugar and egg. Such a breakfast might consist of a large orange, a half cup of cooked
cereal with one level teaspoonful of sugar and as much as is needed of a glass of milk; the remainder of the milk to be drunk. One egg may be taken any way except fried, and coffee or tea without sugar or cream. This furnishes from 500 to 600 calories.
At noon one may have a vegetable cooked with very little butter or a large serving of salad with one slice of bread and a glass of milk, furnishing from 400 to 500 calories. For dinner one may have a clear soup, a serving of lean meat or fish or a half cup of baked beans or of macaroni and cheese plus a medium boiled potato, a vegetable, tea or coffee without cream or sugar, a glass of whole milk or buttermilk, and either fruit or a very small piece of cake, furnishing from 500 to 700 calories, and making a total for the day of 1,400 to 1,800 calories.
The vegetables to choose on such a diet are lettuce, cucumbers, spinach, asparagus, rhubarb, endive, marrow, sorrel, sauerkraut, beet greens, dandelions, celery, Swiss chard, mushrooms. Not quite so good, but still satisfactory in moderate quantities, are tomatoes, water cress, sea kale, cauliflower, egg plant, cabbage, radishes, leeks, string beans, broccoli, artichokes. The best fruits are grapefruit, strawberries, lemons, cranberries, peaches, blackberries, oranges, currants.
What about the promise that a reducing diet can include pie, milk shakes, fudge sundaes, chocolate candy and other highly concentrated foods? Indulgences in these can be permitted only infrequently, and then only if you forego part of your diet. Don’t kid yourself that a soft drink has no calories. It has about 60 to the average small bottle. A good thick milk shake will account for 500 calories if you drink it all. A banana split or a sizeable
chocolate; sundae with nuts and whipped cream will range from 400 calories up to 1,000.
Unquestionably there are some drugs that will reduce fat. The most important of these is thyroxin, the thyroid principle. It works this way: Food to be converted into energy in the body must be oxidized. This process is similar to the oxidation which takes place in a fire, but the oxidation in the body produces no flame. If the food eaten is more than can be burned it is stored as fat. Thyroxin speeds up the burning and causes the body to draw upon its fat reserves, thus reducing weight. But this is a process not without danger unless closely watched by a physician.
Research is now being conducted with benzedrine, often used by students and motorists who do not wish to fall asleep over studies or while driving. Recent experiments by Professor A. C. Ivy and Dr. S. C. Harris at Northwestern University, Chicago, indicate benzedrine can be used successfully for weight reduction under certain circum-
stances, with the strictest medical supervision. It has long been recognized that certain individuals crave more food than they need. Experiments show that benzedrine reduces the food intake by reducing the desire for food. When less food is eaten, the weight drops.
These experiments are not a green light for you to take benzedrine and continue with bad habits of overeating and underexercising. Benzedrine is a drug which is far from safe, since it is a stimulant. It is particularly unsafe for patients with heart disease or high blood pressure. It should never be taken without a physician’s advice.
The waistline bears a definite relation to the lifeline. If the waistline is too big the lifeline will almost certainly be shortened. Overweight interferes with good appearance, reduces efficiency and impairs well-being and the enjoyment of life. It is worth while to get back to normal. Do it safely, under medical guidance. It can be done. The price is not too high. So here’s to you—pounds aweigh !