If you ever get hold of a history book, flip through and take special note of the body sizes that seemed to be the norm of each time period. Body weight and ideal have changed over the years, just as they continue to do now. What is in fashion can be dictated by the type of clothing that is in vogue -- some styles just require a thinner frame to lay right. Some cultures will worship the larger members because it is a sign of prosperity- only the rich can be fat after all. Americans have that one backwards -- here only the rich are the super thin.
Why is that? Is it because the wealthy are being fed some "magic" food that allows them to stay ultra-thin? In all reality, the rich are staying that way because they are being fed teeny-tiny, designer meals produced by personal chefs and they have trainers, nutritionists and others working around the clock to keep them that way. There is no magic involved.
Thin and fat have knocked each other off the top of the popularity charts for hundreds of years. Look at the creation of some of the worlds most renowned artists; look at the models that they chose to work with. Ruben would be laughed out of the art community if he were alive to day and still choosing the same models. His plump and juicy lasses were definitely not the waif-thin and underfed gals that pass as models these days, were they?
Now, have a look at another era. Look at the Flappers for instance. Knock-kneed, flat-chested and very thin, the Flappers were the ideal for that time. Of course, there were probably the Rubenesque women who longed to shimmy into a sheath dress as well, but history certainly isn't showing them. Even then, it was the body type that typifies the standard of the day that gets the notice while the others are ignored, or worse, ridiculed.
When thin was in fashion, dieting became the norm. The most extreme diet then is the most extreme dieting now -- fasting. Religious leaders and their devoted followers would fast for days on end and would experience weight loss (of course) as well as the potential for visions. If the fast lasted too long, the weight loss would be followed up with death so the fasters started putting two and two together. Not eating equaled weight loss, but could equal death as well. The aha moment is followed quickly by the adaptation of the fast: A modified fast.
Sometime during the fasting and the modified fasting and the starving and the dying, science discovered the calorie and the dieting industry was born. Now, doctors and snake oil salesman alike had a word to shout at you as well as a number to recommend. Nobody fully understood the diet nor had daily requirements been discovered yet, so no one knew how many calories a person needed or from what foods those calories should even come from.
The early dieters caught on that starving themselves did not work because it led to their deaths. Eating less did work so they would stick to an extremely low calorie count; around 1000 calories. The problem with staying that low is it is impossible to keep the body healthy, whole and well. What they found then is the same thing that a dieter trying to subsist on that calorie count now would find: You cannot survive on it.
As more study was done and science starting revealing the concept of metabolism and the body's own processes, the smart dieter put a twist on the 1000 calorie diet to stave off the body's own destruction of itself. They would remain at the magic number but all of those calories would come from protein and the birth of the first extreme protein diet fad was ushered in. The problem here was the same as the next all protein diet, and the one after that, as well as the problem with all other extreme diets in general: Any diet that allows you, forces you or encourages you to eat only one food group or type and forbids, limits or ignores all others is unhealthy and is pre-destined to eventual failure.
Remember a few years ago when the protein diet reared its head again? Suddenly everybody is eating burgers, but no buns. You could have a pan full of bacon, but you could not have toast to sop up the grease with. Eat a pound of beef at every meal, but don't you dare let a potato touch your lips. The list of vegetables that were on the no-no list for this diet was unreal and even worse- fruit was just as forbidden as a slab of Death by Chocolate cake. Fruit was forbidden on the protein diet and was as vilified as any dessert. All fruits. All the time.
But, extreme protein diets, modified fasts and other weight loss efforts are not easy and even back then, humans were looking for the easier way to lose weight. Before anyone thinks that modern man has the corner on the market for weight loss gadgets and gimmicks, then know this: In the 1900s one of the first weight loss pills was developed, along with tonics, elixirs and other products all meant to tone and trim without the tedium of actually having to watch what you ate or exercise. Among those first pills was one which contained benzocaine, which would not only dull the taste buds but would produce an odd, tingling sensation in the mouth which would make it harder to enjoy food, hopefully leading to the user to eat less. Well, yes, that would work since most people do not eat if they cannot feel their mouth, but the side effect would be chomping through your tongue on a daily basis. Of course, there are still people who do a modified version of this concept to this very day. They brush their teeth after every meal or whenever they feel hungry. The concept is that no one wants to ruin that squeaky clean feeling in their mouth and besides who wants minty fresh potato chips?
Every person wants us to believe something different about weight loss. The doctor wants us to believe that we are in dire need of metabolic help so that he can prescribe us the newest prescription medication. The gym gurus and gadget gods wants us to exercise, but only using their equipment. The infomercials wants us to use their pill, powder, potion, cream or what have you. Authors turned expert or vice versa want us to buy their books. Watch my video, listen to my inspirational tapes; buy, buy buy. In the end, the only thing getting thinner is your wallet and all of the gear and goods in the world is not going to help you if you do not learn the very basics of weight loss. You have to exercise. You need the right amount of calories and you need to understand what a calorie is, where it comes from and how it acts in your body. The next chapter will get you started on that knowledge.