ERIC HUTTON July 15 1961


ERIC HUTTON July 15 1961



This is the diary of a 279-pounder's all-out fight against overweight at the Battle Creek Health Centre, the world's leading scientific weight-control clinic. The real point of this report is not the variety of medical techniques that helped him lose a pound a day at the clinic, but the frame of mind he brought home-where he's still taking them off and enjoying it

Matter over mind: machines take on the exercise they shirked

RECENTLY I SPENT SOME WEEKS learning the answer to a question that has become a major personal preoccupation with more than a million Canadians: how to control overweight. (Doctors estimate that one Canadian in fourteen is seriously overweight; one in four is too heavy for good health. And that ratio is about average for all the well-fed Western world.)

Like most overweights, 1 had tried a wide variety of reducing regimens: the banana and buttermilk diet: the violent-exercise-and-starvation theory; the Maritime all-potato diet; the high-fat protein diet; the 900-calorie package that drug companies and dairies now offer, and a memorable routine of eating an undressed head of lettuce to start every meal, followed by anything else 1 wanted—which wasn't much.

Ironically, they all worked. In thirty years of on-and-off dieting I lost three hundred pounds on those diets. Unfortunately, between diets l gained those pounds back, plus too many more. When the assignment to visit the Battle Creek Health Centre came up. my qualifications easily outweighed the mere tenor fifteen - pound surpluses of other Maclean’s writers.

I’ll try to tell in objective manner what hap-

pened there — although it included the pleasantly painless loss of twenty-two pounds in three weeks. More important, the beneficent brainwashing that accompanies the Battle Creek treatment has continued the process at the rate of five pounds a week, various minor creaks and crochets have disappeared, and 1 feel better than 1 have felt for more years than 1 care to remember.

What does Battle Creek offer the overweight? Apparently, the orthodox essentials all doctors recommend: medical supervision, a good lowcalorie diet, and exercise. But the Health Centre (its guests usually refer to it as the sanitarium or the san) adds a number of ingredients and serves them under one roof in a package that seems to have this advantage: It works.

The added ingredients include a total change of scene and way of life. One guest told me on the first day: "You’ll shave, brush your hair and teeth the same as before — but everything else will be different as long as you’re here.” Then there’s an almost tangible atmosphere created by the staff. As another guest put it, “so many loving, cheerful people confidently pulling for you that you can't possibly fail.”

Paradoxically, one’s first impulse is to escape back into the w-orld of people w'ho can be rude or indifferent or preoccupied with their own affairs.

There’s a strong religious overtone, too. It’s not intrusive, but it is,-after all. the reason for the existence of this Seventh-Day Adventist institution. Good health is as much a part of the Adventists’ religion as prayer or the belief that Christ will return to earth in the foreseeable future. They maintain that since God created man in His own image it’s man’s duty to face Judgment Day in the best possible physical as well as spiritual condition.


The Adventists founded Battle Creek san ninety-five years ago not only to treat the sick but to keep the healthy well by water therapy, exercise, a diet of dairy foods, whole grain, fruit and fresh vegetables, and a regimen that excluded tobacco and alcohol. For years the Adventists were jeered at as "bran eaters” and "grass eaters” but recently Dr. Ernest Wynder of the authoritative Sloan-Kettering Institute and Dr. Frank Lemon of the Loma Linda Medical Centre in California studied the health

Mind over matter: new interests lead to new self-discipline

record of Adventists in comparison with other average Americans and found this: Adventists suffer from nearly fifty percent less cancer, forty percent less heart trouble, and their cholesterol level — generally associated with arterial diseases — is that of men twenty years younger among the general population.

Today most of the guests who come to Battle Creek (one in five is a Canadian) are nonAdventists who like the idea of receiving medical care from people who give it the status of a religion. Many are tired businessmen, the elderly and the convalescent. Some even come to gain weight. But since overweight has become the non-acute malady that concerns most people, the largest single group comes to shed pounds.

The first shock at Battle Creek was being put on 800 calories a day — about what a slender stenographer gets from her mid-morning snack of a couple of doughnuts and a milkshake. The first pleasant surprise was that the well-remembered unpleasant and even painful symptoms of the early days of severe dieting never showed up. This was largely due to the fact that in the first four days the patient’s mind and body are fully occupied by a total

medical examination by half a dozen of the sanitarium’s staff specialists, plus assorted technicians.

After the doctors have checked out every organ (“You need reading glasses,” said Dr. Omans. “Blood pressure and cholesterol level a little high, but they will come down with the weight,” pronounced Dr. Henriksen) the patient enters the realm of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, and will stay there for most of the time he is at Battle Creek.


Dr. Kellogg has been dead for eighteen years, but he still runs Battle Creek as surely as he did from 1876 to 1943. Most of the procedures and all of the therapeutic and exercise equipment that make Battle Creek unique are of his devising. (He also invented corn flakes, peanut butter and meatless steaks and lived an extraordinary life, but that is another story, told in the article beginning on page 11.)

You undergo the Kellogg test of what happens to your blood pressure when, among other things, your arm is thrust for two minutes into cold water. The water feels pleasantly cool, and the pretty therapist is mock-exasperated: “You

Canadians! You should see the Floridians jump.”

You contend with the formidably named “universal dynamometer.” a complex of levers, bars, harnesses and dials which Dr. Kellogg invented to test the strength of the body’s fifty major muscles, and which the U. S. government now' uses to classify recruits for the armed forces. The technician finds forty-two of the fifty muscles in better-than-average working order, but notes for special attention on my master prescription chart the right hand extensors, the left latissimus dorsal and the neck posterior.

After a heart examination on the first day Dr. Henriksen says, as if bestowing a favor, “you are eligible for the exercise classes.” This is the entree to three daily sessions of selfinflicted torture and exhaustion that, strangely, become pleasant and even anticipated in a few days.

All of which explains why those early hunger pains, if they existed, clamored in vain for recognition. There are other reasons, too. It might seem impossible to convert an average meal of 267 calories (equivalent to two of the sugar cookies junior nibbles while impatiently

The secrets of learning to spurn calories

awaiting dinner) into a lull-course, appetizing meal. They do it at Battle Creek, though. After you’ve made your leisurely way (the guest soon learns to chew slowly and thoroughly) through clear broth (15 calories), vegetable relish plate with melba toast (40 calories), cottage cheese and fruit salad (200 calories), lowcalorie jelly dessert (15 calories) and black decatfeinized coffee (no calories), it's difficult to realize you haven’t eaten what most people would call a meal.

On the first day 1 overheard a pleasingly plump girl at a nearby table arguing earnestly with a dietitian. Obviously. 1 thought, a guest cracking under the strain of hunger and threatening to desert to the Hart Hotel dining room two blocks away. But that wasn’t it.

"You're feeding me too much.” the girl complained. 'Tm not losing weight fast enough. Only a pound a day for the last two days.”

"A pound a day is as much as you should lose,” answered the dietitian, “and you’re on only 600 calories a day now. That’s the lowest we allow.”

The overweight guests at Battle Creek seem to fall into two main categories: those who are forty, fifty or more pounds overweight, and

those, chiefly women, who want to shed ten or fifteen pounds. (Some sort of record is held by a Toronto society girl who decided she needed to lose three pounds, and spent a week at Battle Creek doing it.)

The very overweight envy the others, of course, and call them "the lucky ten-pounders.” The envy is returned a little because the excessively flabby can boast of a weight loss of up to two pounds a day at first. Both types, though, must suffer through the sad “levelingoff" period that occurs near the end of the first week. Despite diet, exercise, hot boxes, steam rooms and massage, one’s weight remains immovable for two or three days. Your doctor warns you that this will happen. When diet and treatment start, excess fluids as well as fat are lost. Then the thirsty tissues reabsorb fluids. Though you are still shedding fat, the scales refuse to budge until the fluid loss starts again — and continues.

Even with the warning, it’s a melancholy period, 1 saw a girl burst into tears when she lost no weight in two days. A pair of experienced guests tried to comfort her. "It happened to us." they said. "It happens to everybody. Tomorrow you'll lose CONTINUED ON PAGE 37

continued from page 10

One man has offered his daughter $100 for every pound she loses; for 30 pounds, a new convertible

a pound.” Next day she was all smiles and morale. She had lost a pound and a half.

This girl, one of the “lucky tenpounders.” had tried at home for four months to lose weight. “1 even stuck a sign on the refrigerator, ‘Why don't you lose those ten ugly pounds?’ but it didn’t work. My friends gave me a party the night before I left for Battle Creek — and now 1 have to lose twelve pounds.” She did, in less than three weeks.

The trip to Battle Creek is a major project for most who come to lose weight, sometimes a crisis. A 270-pounder. aged in the thirties, who goes through the sanitarium routine with grim efficiency, is a young advertising company executive whose boss has ordered him to get down to normal grey-flannel-suit size, with the warning that his weight is impairing his and the company’s "image” of brisk efficiency.

“Putting executives back into shape is a growing trend here,” said Cliff Eckman, administrator of the Health Centre. "The cost is tax-deductible, and what with President Kennedy’s crackdown on lush expense accounts, companies are finding it cheaper and more profitable to give their executives a session at Battle Creek than a cruise or a credit card.”

An Indianapolis doctor who told his wife he was going fishing in Canada is at Battle Creek instead, taking off thirty pounds as a surprise birthday present for his wife. An Ottawa widow in her fifties is getting into shape "to live a little again.” When her husband died seven

years ago she withdrew from all her former activities. “1 stayed home and mourned — and nibbled.” she said. “I didn’t care how fat 1 got. But this year I decided to join the human race again and I'm starting off with four months here.”

A Detroit teenager is at Battle Creek to win a S100-a-pound bet with her father. “Dad has promised me my own convertible if 1 take off thirty pounds,” she explained. A concert career is at stake for a Chicago girl. She concentrated so single-mindedly on voice training at the famed Juilliard School that she scarcely noticed the pounds building up. “When 1 was ready for my debut 1 weighed over two hundred pounds,” she said. “Not even an opera star can get away with that nowadays.” So she postponed her career for a six-month stay at Battle Creek, and meanwhile keeps her lovely voice in trim by singing at sanitarium concerts.

The patient whom most of the guests go out of their way to encourage is a New York girl who is on her second visit to the san. Seven years ago she spent several months there, slimming down from more than two hundred pounds to an attractive hundred and twenty-five. Now she’s back at two hundred and hack at Battle Creek. She spends her spare time reading fashion magazines and picking out the clothes she will buy when she has shed seventy-five pounds, and proclaiming aloud: “Never, never, never again.”

Sometimes it takes a minor marital

crisis to send patients to Battle Creek. A man and a woman at my table had similar reasons for being there: "1 asked my husband for money for new clothes," said the woman. "But by then 1 had a thousand dollars’ worth of clothes I couldn’t get into. He said. ‘1 won’t buy you any new clothes — hut I'll buy you a trip to Battle Creek’."

The man's story was that he kept in-

sisting that his wife buy his shirts and underwear in his “right” size, which he had long since outgrown. "1 always told her ‘I'll be back down to my right weight in a month.’ but 1 never seemed to make it. Once she brought home some shirts labeled ‘Stout Fella' and I was horrified.

I made her send them back. In the end I had a dresser full of stuff I couldn’t wear, so here 1 am."

The surest way to lose weight is to stay at Battle Creek while the job is done. Sanitarium officials claim they have never had a failure among the “long-termers.” T heir prize example is the son of an Oklahoma wholesale lumberman who came to the san at eighteen, a bored, lethargic youth of more than three hundred pounds. He stayed nearly a year and left at a trim 145. Soon afterward his father died and he took over the business. Two years later he is a successful businessman, and. his grateful letters relate. "hasn’t put back a pound.”

But most overweights can spare neither the time nor the money for more than a month’s stay. For them the sanitarium plans a tunning start in weight reduction, supplemented by indoctrination and education in the how and why of weight control. Most of the indoctrination is subtle, but some is pointed. Dr. Jens Henriksen, a lean athletic man with a master’s degree in physical medicine both from his native Denmark and from the University of Minnesota, starts one of his lectures to the assembled overweights by shouldering a fifty-pound laundry bag and staggering a few steps. “I’m tired already.” he announces, “but many of you are carrying this load all day.”

"My fifty pounds is better arranged,” says a woman in the audience. And it is a little. The bag remains accusingly before the audience through the lecture.

On the day of arrival, the patient has his shadowgraph taken. This is a highly unflattering front and side view of his unadorned body. It is presented to the patient, ostensibly for comparison with future versions, but the effect certainly is to make him or her want to change that portrait without delay. Finally, there's that nasty word on the charts of the overweight: "Diagnosis — obesity.” It’s even nastier for the very overweight: "gross obesity.”

But that’s the last harsh word anyone hear\ at Battle Creek. All day and every day the guests are treated like long-lost sons and daughters. The staff shake hands every time they meet you, remark how' well, you look and how much better you’re going to look if you keep up the good work. Being friendly people, they assume all Canadians are intimately acquainted. "How did you leave Mr. Dunkelmarl?” they* inquire. "Give our regards to Mr. Pitblado.” (David Dunkelman, the Toronto clothing magnate, and Isaac Pitblado, of Winnipeg, dean of Canadian lawyers, have been Battle Creek regulars for many years.)

t he day at Battle Creek Health Centre starts at 7.45 with a prayer meeting, as it has since Sister Ellen White presided at the opening in 1866. Mrs. White was the founding prophetess of the Adventist church as an organized religious faith. The need for a health institution run on Adventist principles came to her in one of her many visions. (Most Adventist practices are the result of Mrs. White's visions interpreting the Bible. ) One of the two Health Centre chaplains is Oliver Jacques, great-grandson of Mrs. White. Like most Adventist pastors. Jacques has been a missionary abroad. (The Adventists believe the gospel must be taken to all mankind before Christ returns to earth. )

After prayers Dr. Henriksen shepherds the guests out to the elm-shaded grounds for what he calls breathing exercises, but which are energetic calisthenics accompanied Y»y deep breathing and by a running commentary from the doctor on the virtues of the energetic life. On# pulling guest suggested that if anyone awoke Dr. Henriksen ?n the middle of the night and said: "Let’s do some exercises," he’d

agree enthusiastically.

After breakfast (juice, poached egg on melba toast, tea or coffee substitute) the guest’s day really begins. He walks upstairs to change into gym clothes — the overweights seldom use the elevators after studying their "calorie spending" chart, which shows that walking upstairs burns up sixteen calories a minute, and 3.500 calories used up equals one pound of body weight. (Other calorie consumptions: lying in bed, I calorie; dressing, 3: taking shower. 3; walking outdoors. 5; sw imming. 10; golting, 4; tennis, 5 Vi ; table tennis, 4. snooker pool, 2 Vi ; squash, 8; sitting. 1; sitting eating, I Vi.)

You walk downstairs (six calories per minute) to half an hour of exercises in which both men and women join. Then comes one of the highlights of the day — the "treatment." The treatment floor of the sanitariiftu puts you right back into the hands of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. It is equipped with the devices Dr. Kellogg invented seventy and eighty years ago as refinements of the early Adventist "water cure," which consisted of wrapping patients in wet sheets and dousing them with hot and cold water.

The electric-light "bath" in which you broil gently may be the very one in w-hich Thomas Edison sat w hen he came to Battle Greek to find out who was this man who began ordering electricbulbs by the gross almost as soon as they had been invented. (When Dr. Kellogg

took an electric-light cabinet with him on a trip to Europe early this century, both King Edward of England and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany commissioned him to make replicas for their own use. )

Many of the treatment-room attendants have been there almost as long as the equipment. Of the sanitarium’s three hundred employees, a dozen have served more than forty years, and one in ten has been on the job more than twenty years, which makes them “Dr. Kellogg’s people.” The present medical superintendent, Dr. James R. Jeffrey, started his training at the san fifty years ago.

Oscar Engen, your treatment supervisor, tells you casually, as he tucks you into a hot-fomentation bed to simmer, that this very bed was particularly pleasing to Sir Wilfred Grenfell after the cold of Labrador. Spurr Lcatherman, your masseur, tells you reassuringly, “Why, you’re medium-sized compared with some editors I’ve hail on this table. Mr. Barron weighed four hundred pounds and it took two of us to massage him.” Clarence Barron w'as the financial pundit who ran the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s Financial Weekly and the Dow-Jones market reports.

Dr. Kellogg’s mechanical marvels

At the door of the treatment rooms comes every patient’s moment of truth. After two hours of w'ct fomentations, hot box, steam room, salt rub, needle shower, massage and sunlamp treatment, he steps on the scale. Where that unsympathetic pointer stops in relation to where it stopped yesterday determines the patient’s state of mind for the rest of the day.

It determines, too, the appetite he brings to lunch and the determination with which he tackles his afternoon program. This consists of half an hour of bends, jumps, pushups and other beneficial forms of muscle torture. Then the overweights are turned loose into the

Health Centre’s mechanical gymnasium.

The Smithsonian Institution has long looked with covetous eyes on the amazing array of mechanical devices for pummeling and shaking up the human body that Dr. Kellogg invented or borrowed and had made in his own workshop. You lie on a table that moves back and forth while six leather-covered fists none too gently pummel your back, hips and abdomen; you ride horses that gallop and buck; you sit on loose-jointed chairs on which it takes energy just to stay put; you lie on beds that jounce like a branchline Pullman berth; you lower yourself into electric chairs whose tingling vibration feels like the real thing. Next door jn the ladies’ mechanical gym the equipment is duplicated; there’s also a “spanking machine” that attacks oversized hips.

One man became so convinced of the benefits of the vibrating chair that he installed a battery - powered vibrating cushion in his new Lincoln. He had difficulty explaining to friends why he had paid thousands of dollars for a car w'ith an oil-smooth ride and then added a gadget that gave him approximately the ride of a Model T.

After the mechanical-gym session, the strenuous part of the day is over — but not the day’s program. The guest can choose between nature walks, gardening, badminton, health lectures, movie travelogues, tennis. After dinner comes the grand march, another of Dr. Kellogg’s rituals, which fills the Battle Creek rule of moderate exercise after meals. It’s an intricate pattern of marching in the gymnasium, rather like the RCMP’s musical ride on foot. Dancing (three calories a minute) would do as well, but the Adventists don’t approve of dancing.

Life at the sanitarium might not be what a man-about-town would consider gay. but people of all temperaments soon seem to enter into its serene purposefulness. Senator Neil McLean, a slim Maritimer who has been a Battle Creek regular for twenty years, puts it this way:

“In a quiet way one is kept quite busy. The last time I was there I didn’t even find time to go downtown.”

There have been rebels at Battle Creek, of course. For years a “Sinners’ Club” flourished in the city's No. 2 Fire Hall, across the street. Defecting sanitarium guests gathered there for a smoke, forbidden in the san, and a snack of nondietetic food. The club w'as named by Dr. Kellogg who. cycling by and spotting a group of his guests in session, would earnestly lecture them on the evils of indulgence. Among the charter members were E. H. “Boss” Crump., for many years mayor of Memphis and political dictator of western Tennessee, and Harry McLean, the Canadian millionaire contractor known as "Mr. X” for his habit of tossing bills of large denomination out of hotel windows. Between visits McLean kept the Sinners’ Club supplied with such forbidden delicacies as oysters, sardines and herring. Although he was the only guest ever asked to leave the sanitarium because of over-exuberant behavior, he was always forgiven and invited to return, and his death two months ago was sincerely mourned by the staff. He was a lavish tipper. Once he bought every woman on the staff a new Easter hat. On his last visit he tipped his treatmentroom attendant $500.

While I was at Battle Creek there was only one backslider, a Detroit fibre importer who slipped out one night to Scheulers, one of the city’s best restaurants. At breakfast next morning he was unrepentant. “1 had two martinis and a steak with all the trimmings,” he confided. But at lunch he was sad. “I gained two pounds,” he said. It took him three days to get back on his weight schedule, which led him to calculate that the ste .k had cost him $69.

Actually, the sanitarium is anything but expensive, even though the type of guest it attracts has given it an unwanted reputation as a “rich man’s rest home.” Rates are $18 to $23 a day. less than the price of a good hotel room with meals and about half the cost of most U. S. hospital accommodation. For this the Battle Creek guest receives a luxuriously furnished room with a view, and meals which, if "different,” are top quality (when the U. S. melon crop proved to be less than prime last year, the sanitarium imported its melons from Spain). Fach guest is assigned a personal physician who prescribes every detail of his regimen, and can be consulted at any time. So can Dr. Harold Caviness, the Health Centre’s resident psychiatrist. The patient's every meal is individually planned by the dietitian to whom he's assigned. The treatments and all other facilities and activities are included in the rate. The staff outnumbers the guests two to one.

What the majority of first-time visitors to Battle Creek Health Centre feel about the experience was summed up by Sir Ellsworth Flavelle, the Toronto baronet who went there recently to relax, kept a log of his stay, and ended it with: “We have had the privilege of living amongst these happy people and the deep impression they have made will not fade easily from our minds.”

That "deep impression” is even more unforgettable to the overweight. Weeks after exposure to the "Battle Creek idea" — and its visible results — I'm still literally unable to eat formerly irresistible foods that 1 know are fattening, or to refrain from the simple exercises (like walking instead of riding) whose avoidance until now was second nature. The 96-year-old Battle Creek program does something nothing else has done until now: it works.