The war of 1914 brought to light such important knowledge in scientific nutrition that research in dietetics surged forward by leaps and bounds. The baby science of nutrition was now in its swaddling clothes. Father was deeply gratified; he began to formulate new plans.
We had always realized that operating a sanitarium to demonstrate the importance of diet was far from ideal. Patients who come to a sanitarium are usually at the tag end of a disease. Often the best that can be done is to mitigate their symptoms and give them a little further breath of life, which, of course, is not the ultimate function of diet.
The greatest value of nutrition lies in the prevention of disease, in the building of super-health, and in the prolongation of years of life. Obviously, the most useful and needed service that a practicing nutritionist could render would be to teach people how to eat to have health, to instill the importance of nutrition into mothers, so that they could have better babies and feed their children for optimum health.
By 1922, my father was definitely convinced that it was time to bring the newer knowledge of nutrition directly to the public. This meant teaching homemakers reform in cooking methods and revolutionary changes in the customary menu planning. Intelligent eating demands an entire redistribution of foods in the diet of the average person, with far more vegetables and fruits and less of starches and proteins. .
Father began to prepare for the new work. He placed the Sanitarium property on the market for sale. Then an accident intervened, which later caused his death.
Just how our new plans would have evolved had Henry Lindlahr lived longer, only Providence knows. To teach nutrition to the public can be accomplished in many ways. That our plans would find ultimate fulfilment by what in those days was a squawking gadget called the radio was inconceivable. Such, however, was Fate’s decree.
By chance, in the summer of 1929, I had the opportunity to deliver some diet talks over the radio. The listeners’ response truly amazed me. People were interested! There are no words to describe my feelings when I realized that here was the way to teach nutrition. From that moment on, the microphone became my very life.
The literally stupendous portent of broadcasting as a medium for disseminating what I hold to be priceless knowledge was augmented by the thrill and satisfaction of “meeting” thousands of nice people interested in the same ideas that I am. I love it-I always shall.
Mrs. Jones’ problem with Papa Jones who will have no “truck with bunny food,” Mrs. Smith’s gain of three pounds in one week such and a hundred other adventures fill every day. The twaddle of critics, “It’s all so irregular” (and worse) makes life more interesting. It is satisfying, worth while. I am still afraid sometimes that I will wake up to find it all a dream.
Our radio program has always been an informal one, in fact very informal. We hobnob with the radio listeners, read their letters, opinions and comments, and try to mold the broadcasts according to the suggestions and desires of the listeners. The constant theme, of course, is nutrition.
Many, many listeners wanted the text of the broadcasts in black and white. We began the Journal of Living, the first lay nutrition journal, I believe. It has prospered. Naturally, questions on reducing and the problem of what to eat and what not to eat in obesity were of paramount interest to listeners. From 1929 to 1935 we sent out hundreds of copies of our reducing diet, embodying the catabolic principles, to interested listeners. The results were uniformly excellent.
Here the 600-calorie diet showed its worth in the crucible of clinical tests. Stop to consider that in medical literature and practice prior to 1938, it was held:
1. That a reducing diet of 1500 calories a day was about the greatest calorie restriction permissible.
2. That it was not safe to lose more than two or three pounds a month.
3. That any reduction of weight at the rate of a pound a day must be deadly and dangerous.
I thought differently, of course, but established opinions about diet change slowly, even in scientific circles.
Then something happened. Early in July 1935, a group of radio listeners suggested that we actually broadcast a reducing diet and give the menus day by day in detail. I jumped at the idea. If a considerable number of the audience would go on the diet, follow it faithfully, and then report, we would really accumulate irrefutable evidence and the not-to-be-denied attention value of the spectacular. So, we agreed a few weeks later, the audience and I, that we would try a test reducing diet if a thousand listeners would promise to follow.
We added that if the test were satisfactory from the audience viewpoint-if it actually helped procrastinating, weak-willed overweights to undertake a “mass” reducing effort-we would follow the test with a reducing party for all of the audience who wisiied to take off weight in good company.
A few weeks later we began the test diet. About 1100 people started out. By the time the Journal o f Living went to press, we had received 438 reports. Within a month, 936 had reported-the average weight loss on the test party had been one pound a day for ten days.
That memorable first report is herewith appended. The test had further demonstrated the worth of the catabolic diet. I tightened up the diet, shortened the time to seven days, and made ready for our first radio reducing party. In April 1936 we had the party and 26,000 listeners participated! This time we sent out mimeographed notes containing the diet menus in detail. The average loss of weight was eight pounds in seven days (all cases) .
Following the “big” party, the reducing diet was printed in formal style. One of the primary principles in the diet was decidedly conducive to furthering the use of one of my sponsor’s products. The sponsor helped considerably in obtaining a distribution of the diet notes in New York and Philadelphia.
The sale of the notes was phenomenal. An edition of 200,000 copies was exhausted within a year. Additional printings were made. By the Fall of 1938, close to a half million copies had been sold. Evidently, considerable numbers of people, in this wide land of ours, were using the Lindlahr reducing diet.
Concurrently with this widespread public reception of the catabolic reducing diet, medical literature pertaining to obesity and reducing underwent considerable change. Finally, in the Journal o f the American Medical Association (December 10, 1938), a most amazing case was reported in detail. It was the history of a woman who had reduced from 395 to 156 pounds in twenty months.
1. The patient had been kept on a 600-calorie dieta diet similar to ours.
2. The basic conclusion drawn from the study was: “There is no limit to the extent to which excess weight may be removed by low-calorie diets, provided they contain the necessary proteins, minerals, and vitamins.”
The medical concept of the dietary treatment of obesity was sharply revised. Thus a principle went into practice! Thus a 600-calorie diet was “approved.”
Now perhaps a dip into the transcribed notes of our broadcasts during the reducing party, and excerpts from some of the letters written by participants, will give some of you hesitating, procrastinating mortals with nebulous fears of what might happen if you were to follow our reducing diet, an actual view of what really happens.
On April 27 we began the diet. As we gave the daily menus over the air that week and encouraged listeners to stick to their guns, hundreds of people who went on the diet were kind enough to phone, write, or even telegraph their progress. What a hectic week that was, the reducing party!
Let us look now at bits of some of the letters broadcast. See how people fare on our diet. It is revealing.
Fifth Day of the Diet (May 1)
Mrs. R.H.G., Homeslrurg, Pa.: I am on your list of reducers. I weighed 192 on Monday (such a surprise when I got an the scales). I weighed 190 on Tuesday, and boy, was I feeling good? I housecleaned for four hours, then went to the movies.
I haven’t eaten a piece of bread or a spoonful of sugar. And I’ve pulled in my girdle about three inches. . . .
I tried to interest my two daughters-in-law-nothing doing. They say diets are dangerous, but I’ll show them. . . . Puffiness out of my ankles and shin bones . . . rediscovering the buoyancy of health, head clear as a crystal. I vowed I was going to get my girlish figure back, and I’ll show some certain snooty young ladies that they don’t know it all, not by a jugf ul.”
From a night nurse in Brooklyn: Well, I, for one, feel it’s a real duty to tell you the results of the present reducing diet. Am I losing? Well, I certainly am. I’m one of the great army of fat night nurses. . . . I have to have a bite with the family and eat at home, too. Have to eat meals at night while on duty because I’m on the go then. I have a little bit of toast and coffee in the morning. Result: six or seven meals in twenty-four hours.
Does a night nurse get fat? You know she does! I am perfectly satisfied with the reducing meals and the discipline. No need to tell you I’m feeling 100 per cent fit. I can hardly eat all the food given in a meal and the feeling of satiety stays with me until the next one. I like this diet better than your test diet of last year.
Sixth Day of the Diet (May 2)
From a lady in New York City: I wish to report a loss of four pounds on the fourth day. Isn’t that grand? I’m the lady who inquired how I could go on the diet when so many vegetables were listed, and I couldn’t chew because of lack of teeth. A friend of mine suggested that I grind the vegetables. That’s just what I’m doing, and here I am, losing at the rate of a pound a day. I’m going to take off thirty pounds before I get through.
A letter from a gentleman: Foolishly or otherwise, I allowed my wife to cajole me into going on your diet. She got in her insidious work when I had just finished one of my favorite meals. I had never eaten carrots, spinach, squash, or most of your non-fattening vegetables in my life. I utterly despised them so you can imagine what a time I am having with your meals. It’s tough trying to force them down.
And the raw salads-boy, they are terrible. But I ate according to prescription except for last night, when I took a flop. I had three beers and a pretzel. This morning I arose full of remorse, and right back on the diet I went. I weigh only 165 but am too fat for my height. I should get down to 140. I have lost a couple of pounds but I am afraid to go near a scale.
Another letter from a gentleman in New York- City: On April 27, I weighed 231 pounds. Waistline forty inches, calf eighteen, thigh twenty-seven, hip girth forty-five, height six feet one, age 43. On May 2, I weighed 224 pounds, waist thirty-eight and one-half inches, calf seventeen, thigh thirty-five, hips fortyfour. I lost exactly eight pounds.
I possess a heavy, bony structure, and I want to add, for I am associated with well-rated medical men, that your diet is unquestionably the best organized, most scientific of any I have seen.
A lady in Philadelphia: Last six and one-half pounds from Monday until Friday. . . . As I wrote you previously, I have diabetes. During the five days, my blood sugar dropped from 220 to 137%Z. I was so surprised that I asked my doctor if that were possible. He said of course it was, and that I was doing fine.
The Following Monday
From Philadelphia: I am 50 years old, five feet two, and weighed 259. Began the diet April 27 without much hope, as I had been told that it was impossible for me to reduce. Tuesday morning, I hadn’t lost an ounce, but I can figure why now, because my elimination was thrown off balance.
Wednesday, I almost popped off the scales from surprise, because I had registered a three-pound loss. I couldn’t believe it. Happy? No words to describe it! By Thursday, I had lost five pounds. I had been in the habit of drinking nine to twelve cups of coffee and glasses of water a day. I imagine I was sometimes waterlogged.
By Saturday I had lost nine pounds. I told my butcher; he wouldn’t believe me. And now, Monday morning, after a net loss of twelve and one-half pounds, I feel splendid and have a big day’s work mapped out.
There you are, good reader. That’s a gnat’s eye view of the beginning days of the diet.
The final survey of that week’s adventure showed that the catabolic diet, when used in thousands of cases, worked -really worked-with the accuracy of the law of averages.
Eight Pounds in Seven Days
Here unquestionably was the wave in the surge of human affairs that washed away the fear of low-calorie diets! Here was begun an accumulation of evidence and experience that has changed the present-day scientific reducing diets to a 600-calorie basis.
Here a groundwork was laid for the revolutionary present-day medical principle-“There is no limit to the extent to which excess weight may be removed. . . .”