Getting Thin - One Man's Story

Here's an excerpt from "The Fun of Getting Thin", a book written by Samuel G. Blythe about a hundred years ago (and now a Project Gutenberg eBook). It's interesting to read one man's personal weight loss story and how he went on to lose fifty pounds way back then.

Fat, the doctors say, is fatal. I move to amend by striking out the
last two letters of the indictment. Fat is fat. It isn't any more
fatal to be reasonably fat than to be reasonably thin, but it's a
darned sight more uncomfortable. So far as being unreasonably thin or
unreasonably fat is concerned, I suppose the thin person has the long
end of it. I never was thin, so I don't know. However, I have been
fat--notice that "have been"? And if there is any phase of human
enjoyment, any part of life, any occupation, avocation, divertisement,
pleasure or pain where the fat man has the better of it in any regard,
I failed to discover it in the twenty years during which I looked like
the rear end of a hack and had all the bodily characteristics of a bale
of hay.

When you come to examine into the actuating motives for any line of
human endeavor you will find that vanity figures about ninety per cent,
directly or indirectly, in the assay. The personal equation is the
ruling equation. Women want to be thinner because they will look
better--and so do men. Likewise, women want to be plumper because they
will look better--and so do men. This holds up to forty years. After
that it doesn't make much difference whether either men or women look
any better than they have been looking, so far as the great end and aim
of all life is concerned. Consequently fat men and fat women after
forty want to be thinner for reasons of health and comfort, or quit and
resign themselves to their further years of obesity.

Now I am over forty. Hence my experiments in reduction may be taken at
this time as grounded on a desire for comfort--not that I did not make
many campaigns against my fat before I was forty. I fought it now and
then, but always retreated before I won a victory. This time, instead
of skirmishing valiantly for a space and then being ignominiously and
fatly routed by the powerful forces of food and drink, I hung stolidly
to the line of my original attack, harassed the enemy by a constant and
deadly fire--and one morning discovered I had the foe on the run.

It always makes me laugh to hear people talk about losing
flesh--unless, of course, the decrease in weight is due to illness. No
healthy person, predisposed to fat, ever lost any flesh. If that
person gets rid of any weight, or girth, or fat, it isn't lost--it is
fought off, beaten off. The victim struggles with it, goes to the mat
with it, and does not debonairly drop it. He eliminates it with stern
effort and much travail of the spirit. It is a job of work, a grueling
combat to the finish, a task that appalls and usually repels.

The theory of taking off fat is the simplest theory in the world. It
is announced, in four words: Stop eating and drinking. The practice of
fat reduction is the most difficult thing in the world. Its
difficulties are comprehended in two words: You cannot. The flesh is
willing, but the spirit is weak. The success of the undertaking lies
in the triumph of the will over the appetite. There's a lovely line of
cant for you! Triumph of the will over the appetite. It sounds like
the preaching of a professional food faddist, who tells the people they
eat too much and then slips away and wolfs down four pounds of
beefsteak at a sitting. However, I suppose it is necessary to say this
once in a dissertation like this--and it is said.

In writing about this successful experiment of mine in reducing weight
I have no theories to advance except one, and no instructions to give.
I don't know whether my method would take an ounce off any other person
in the world, and I don't care. I only know it took more than fifty
pounds off me. I am not advancing any argument, medicinal or
otherwise, for my plan. I never talked to a doctor about it, and never
shall. If there are fat men and fat women who are fat for the same
reasons I was fat I suppose they can get thin the way I got thin. If
they are fat for other reasons I suppose they cannot. I don't know
about either proposition.

I have great respect for doctors--so much respect, in fact, that I keep
diligently away from them. I know the preliminaries of their game and
can take a dose of medicine myself as skillfully as they can administer
it. Also, I know when I have a fever, and have a working knowledge of
how my heart should beat and my other bodily functions be performed. I
have frequently found that a prescription, unintelligibly written but
looking very wise, is highly efficacious when folded carefully and put
in the pocketbook instead of being deposited with a druggist. I
suppose that comes from a sort of hereditary faith in amulets. No
doubt the method would be even more efficacious if the prescription
were tied on a string and hung around the neck. I shall try that some
time when my wife lugs in a doctor on me.

Still, doctors are interesting as a class. After you get beyond the
let-me-feel-your-pulse-and-see-your-tongue preliminaries they are
versatile and ingenious. Almost always, after you tell them what is
the matter with you, they will know--not every time, but frequently.
Also, they will take any sort of a chance with you in the interest of
science. However, they generally send out for a specialist when they
are ill themselves. When you come to think of it that is but natural.
Almost any man, whether professional or not, will take a chance with
somebody else that he wouldn't quite go through with on himself.
Besides, doctors treat comparative strangers for the most part, and the
interests of science are to be conserved.

Almost any doctor can tell you how to get thin. To be sure, no doctor
will tell you to do the same things any other doctor prescribes, but it
all simmers down to the same thing: Cut out the starchy foods and
sweets, and take exercise. Also: Don't drink alcohol. The variations
that can be played on this simple theme by a skillful doctor are
endless. When a real specialist in fat reduction gets hold of you--a
real, earnest reducer--he can contrive a diet that would make a living
skeleton thin--and likewise put him in his little grave. I have had
diets handed to me that would starve a humming-bird, and diets that
would put flesh on a bronze statue; and all to the same end--reduction.
Science has been monkeying with nourishment for the past ten or fifteen
years to the exclusion of many other branches of research; and about
all that has happened to the nourishment is the large elimination of
nutriment from it.

Continued in Chapter 11 : THE SO-CALLED CURES