The aftermath of our radio reducing party brought thousands upon thousands of letters. Out of them we selected some 9,000 for our permanent files and these letters, I am sure, contain an unexampled store of information about weight control. Of course countless questions were asked but even more were answered, and we were given precious information which was detailed entirely in terms of human experience.
Here was knowledge that could scarcely be supplied from abstract reasoning or theory or even gained in searching laboratory experiment. Perhaps if we browse about among these letters for a few pages, it may prove interesting. Some of the thoughts we glean may be repetitious. But then again we may gainfully augment what information we have already gathered.
If we learned nothing else, we learned that the exaggerated taste for fattening foods, which is a pitfall for so many lipophilics, is usually nothing more or less than a fault born purely of habit. It would be interesting to know just what percentage of f at people are overweight because they eat too much sugar, starch, or fat. Our letters tend to show that it is the starchy foods that seem to be the most usual hazard for the overweight.
In fact, quite often our overweight listeners vowed that they just didn’t like fat and couldn’t eat it. But they would confess a tremendous liking for starches and sweets. Certainly it was a definite trait among our fatties and I wonder if the tendency isn’t born of mankind’s dim experience of the past.
It is very difficult in this day of great plenty in foodstuffs to realize that only a few generations ago practically all mankind lived in fear of starvation and famine. Railroads, motorcars, steamboats have enabled us to shift foods from one part of the world to another and surpluses from here to there.
Before improved transportation methods, if there were a drought, pestilence, or crop failure in some part of the world, the evil could not be alleviated, for food could not be moved to the stricken region quickly enough. So for thousands and thousands of years, most of mankind was unused to plenty, and perhaps it thus became ingrained in man to eat too much when there was enough food around.
Now if there is any truth in this idea, if it serves as an excuse for the human habit of eating too much, then perhaps we can reason that the inordinate desire of many people for too much starchy food is just a carry-over from former times.
Until perhaps the year 1800, in most parts of the world cereals were the mainstay of the human diet. Throughout Europe, rye bread was the chief food. Meat was a rarity. Cattle were used for ploughing and other farm work. They were much too valuable to be used for food until they were so old that they could not work.
Farm methods were crude and inefficient. Perhaps ten bushels of grain was a good yield for an acre of land in a year. With not enough grain to feed the populace, it is not surprising that farm animals were not raised for food. The gardening of common greens and vegetables is a comparatively new advance. This custom did not appear in England until about the time of Henry VIII.
Such foods as cabbages, turnips, radishes, and onions were used in olden times only as medicinal herbs. Perhaps the use of potatoes, which were brought from South America in the middle 1500′s and which came into common use in Western countries 100 or 150 years later, was the revolutionary change that gave mankind a more liberal diet.
Be that all as it may, when the human species for thousands of years has subsisted upon cereals or, in other words, a preponderantly starch diet, it is not easy to pry the “taste” loose. But it can be done, and proof of this fact to my mind was the most important lesson that I gleaned from our post-reducing-party letters.
When one-time fatties wrote, as they did by the hundreds, that they had learned to like the non-fattening fruits and vegetables and that it was no longer a problem for them to pass by starches and sweets, great progress had been made.
When a person eats a starchy food, some of it is very quickly converted into sugar-which in turn sends up the blood sugar. The blood sugar rise gives the person a lift not unlike that of alcohol. Depending upon or craving this stimulus or lift can be a habit and sometimes a vicious one, an appetite which is at least no help to the f atty-for the fat which is made from starches is a “hard fat” more difficult to break down than some others.
In this same vein of thought, we learned again the salutary lesson that there is a tremendous difference between appetite and hunger. Hunger is comparatively easy to appease; appetite is not. Appetite will remain with a per son long after hunger has been satiated. How easy it is to dive into that rich, luscious dessert even though you are full to the bursting point of meat and other dishes of the table!
But we found, too, that appetite, at least an exaggerated appetite, for foods can be squelched. Our custom of eating a salad first or a goodly portion or two of the nonfattening fruits or vegetables before we look with favor upon the breads or other fattening foods is the best prophylactic against appetite indulgence.
We learned that following the catabolic system of eating over a reasonable period of time often engineered that most desirable of accomplishments-the destruction of fat where it most needs to be destroyed. In freak diet reducing systems, or where exercise is depended upon, very often the fat person will lose f at mainly in the skin and neck, becomes drawn and haggard looking, but still exhibits the fat paunch, the “spare tire.” I could give you deep and complicated reasons for this phenomenon. It has to do with the different types of fat which accumulate in different parts of the body.
The human body maintains fat depots. The skin is one. So is the lower abdomen and that section in the midriff which doctors call the omentum. The fat stored in the depots is apt to be of a little different composition from that in other parts of the body and more difficult to break up by ordinary body metabolic processes.
The introduction of a goodly percentage of foods in the diet which stir up and stimulate the catabolic processes so heightens the destruction of f at that even the tougher kinds are blown up. The thyroid and other glands are stimulated to greater activity by the catabolic diet. At any rate, hundreds and hundreds of our listeners who followed the reducing diet and later chose-catabolic foods more liberally reported that the spare tire, the extra chins, or the alderman had obligingly disappeared.
We learned that the curve of fat destruction paralleled in intensity, roughly, those periods of life when fat is ordinarily less likely to accumulate. Briefly, it is a bit more difficult to reduce an infant than it is a child. People in their 20′s, 30′s and 40′s reduce more easily than those in their 50′s and 60′s, but those in their 70′s and on, reduce the easiest of all.
It is amazing how closely these observations tally in so-called fat storage cycles in human life. Physiologists tell us that it is normal for babies to be fat, children to be lean, young adults to be even leaner. It seems average for people in their 50′s and 60′s to be fatter, and it is normal and natural to grow thin in old age.
We also tried to do an interesting bit of detective work, but doing it by mail was clumsy and unsatisfactory. Some day someone will pursue the trail and discover some interesting facts. Here is the thought.
You undoubtedly appreciate by now that there are special metabolic processes for sugar, fat, and starch, each very intricate. That is not even half of it. There are special considerations for different kinds of sugar and fat, and obesity problems to be solved in the study of any of these problems.
For example, different fats are absorbed by the body in greater or less degree, more slowly or more rapidly as the case may be. The fat of olive oil is absorbed quicker than the fat of butter. In animals the type of fat fed will be the type of fat found in their tissues. A similar process goes on in man. The fat of a corn-fed hog is different from that of a slops-fed hog. Hogs fed peanuts or soy beans have particular fats differently flavored, differently composed.
It is quite possible to understand why some people gain weight more rapidly than others, by examining the type of fatty foods or sugars and starches they like to eat. Various sugars are used by the body more readily than others, or made into fat more easily.
It gets down to pretty fine points, intensely interesting, and promises that some day we can have reducing diets much more liberal in fats and starches than our catabolic diet, for example. But first we will have to learn a lot more about food chemistry.
You might remember, though, that the fruit sugars so liberally supplied in our diet have a low absorption rate, and are much better for the fatty than cane sugar or other types.
Another mystery we hoped to solve was why an individual sometimes exhibits a much more rapid conversion of starches into fats than usual. In other words, sometimes it is very much easier to put on fat than at other times-sometimes one has to be very careful about calories; at other times one can get away with a lot. We have some good clues but not the answer.
Checking 500 men of all ages and sizes who went on the reducing diet against 500 women who reported concurrently, we found that men lose faster than women or, to be more exact, that they lose more weight by a few ounces, almost half a pound, than women do in the same seven days:
This may be readily explained by the fact that the metabolism rate of men is on the average higher than that of women. Particularly there is a very great difference in the special starch and sugar metabolism of the sexes. This difference is based on the needs of child bearing and is arranged by the interaction of the sex, adrenal, and pituitary glands. In practice, it means that a woman is more apt to make starches and sugars into fat, more apt to gain weight, and somewhat more difficult to reduce.
All in all, by far the greatest gains in health, well being, and general fitness were made by our overweight friends who were beyond the age of S 0. To some extent this might be due to the fact that listeners beyond that age are more interested in health and much more likely to follow directions closely-more determined to reduce. More significantly, however, those beyond 50 are likely to have rheumatism, high blood pressure, gall bladder trouble, and the degenerative diseases.
Naturally their dividends from reducing would be far greater than those of people who are not afflicted. The connection between overweight and some of the degenerative diseases is so close that reducing becomes an essential part of the alleviation of these ailments. So we are not surprised at the volume of reducers who report that high blood pressure went down from ten to fifty points, or that their blood sugar diminished 10, 20, 50, or even 100 per cent.
Elsewhere we have mentioned that excess pounds become much more burdensome with advancing yearssymptom producing-and the aging body is correspondingly grateful for loss of weight.
I took the trouble to write some hundreds of our regular listeners who reported that they had kept their weight loss and not allowed themselves to gain weight again, to ask them why. Did they keep their pounds down because of appearance, because they looked better, or because they had some symptom which they wanted to control? What was the impelling reason?
When we set aside those answers which gave a serious health motive such as the control of blood pressure or the attempt to fight diabetes, a great, great majority reported that they held their weight down because they felt better when they were not too fat.
This could hardly be called a scientific reason but it is obviously a practical and impelling one. Fat accumulates upon most of us so insidiously that we little realize the .burden it is until we have had a dramatic chance to go along without it for a while. When we find how much better we feel with ten pounds off, how much more pep we have, how much greater our energies, our capacities, and enjoyment of living, then only do we appreciate the full value of being normal in weight.
Taking the gain of feeling better in a more specific sense, we found that those ladies who found an increase of weight coincident with the change of life felt the “most better,” if we may be allowed to distort the king’s English so flagrantly. We noted also that the fat which accumulates at this period of life seemed to be a little more easily demolished than ordinary fat accumulation.
Twenty-five women in the New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia areas who were more than thirty-five pounds overweight and definitely in the change of life reduced an average of 9 3/25 pounds on the seven-day diet, according to their letters.
We found, as might be expected, that most of the young men and women in their early 20′s were reducing only for the sake of appearance. They were usually content to take off five, six, or ten pounds. They were inclined to allow fat to accumulate once more then the diet was repeated. On the other hand, youngish actors and actresses and, strangely enough, young matrons who had taken on too much weight after the babies came, were very diligent about keeping the pounds off, once they had reduced.
Suspicions gleaned from the letters were many, but among them were these that the Lady Stayabeds who liked to have their breakf asts in bed and who had the leisure time to indulge the idea, were the ones who were most likely to find fault with the diet, to give it up, or to complain that they got nowhere with it.
Surprisingly many people have no idea that cocktails, wine, or other alcoholic drinks add calories to the diet. The typical housewife, homemaker, and good mother is very often a slave to the snack habit. Her great difficulty is that she has a little spot of tea or coffee here and there or she attends too many socials, bridge parties, or club meetings that give her an extra meal during the day. She nibbles too much.
Bread eating seems to be the chief hazard of many overweight men-lots of bread and butter. Big lunches seem to be the businessman’s bane-that and the excuse that he is going to take off the extra pounds with exercise some time or another.
It was surprising and comforting to note the really tremendous number of people who learned to relish the catabolic foods. In fact, many began to crave fruits and salad vegetables in nearly the same degree that they once sought starchy foods and fats. This lends credence to the theory of nutritionists that man’s natural, normal appetites may be trusted and that he, if given the opportunity, would tend to choose a balanced diet.
I am inclined to agree with this view, first because so many of our listeners learn to like and appreciate and really “go for” a balanced diet, and secondly, because in the case of many fatties, this was done in face of the fact that the appetite had once been perverted.
The exact way in which our diet and ideas are used by listeners cannot be fit into any strict pattern. I believe most of them follow the seven-day diet almost to the letter except for foods unobtainable in their locality.
Perhaps it is easier for them to follow the set routine although with a little time and trouble it is easy enough to plan “personal” reducing meals on the catabolic principle which will more nearly suit individual tastes. Some people who have needed to or wanted to take off 25, 30, or 40 pounds have followed our diet strictly for weeks and even months. Many, however, of those who had a great deal of weight to attack have worked out their personal menus by making proper substitutions.
Others have specialized in certain favored reducing meals, using them over and over again. I have no exact figures on how many people have kept their weight down once they have taken it off. I have tried rather diligently to gather such figures but they vary, even with the individual.
Some people will hold their weight down for months and then go on an eating binge or a spree, as they express it. Most of those who do control their weight follow about the system I do-of tackling the problem each day, or almost every day. Some, however, use an alternate system of dieting one day and “letting go” the next day.
Many prefer to eat a reducing breakfast, a reducing lunch, and relax their dietary vigilance at dinner. We can put down no hard or fast rules because each individual is apt to work out what suits him best. When we speak of individuals who have learned to control their weight, we speak of those with whom the fact is accomplished, so however they have achieved it is the right way for them.
We have hundreds of letters from people who have kept their weight under control by simply giving up one or two articles of food to which they had become accustomed or addicted or in which they indulged too liberally.
A number reported that they prevented fat accumulation by eating a “lot of cabbage,” many salads, or fruit desserts. Whether this was accomplished by increasing the catabolic processes in the body with a liberal amount of catabolic foods or by replacing fat-adding foods with fatdemolishing foods is only of theoretical interest.
Probably the results come from both factors because, all in all, it must obviously be possible for most overweight people to keep from gaining weight by the simple expedient of adding more catabolic foods to their diet in place of anabolic foods.
Let me point out again that if you should eat a portion of meat which theoretically gives you 150 net calories of fat, you can offset that gain by eating goodly portions of catabolic vegetables.
We may have burst the confines of this chapter with our speculations upon the aftermath of the reducing diet. Lest we sound a bit complacent about our achievements, let us remind ourselves how little we really have accomplished.
As was stated before, we have estimated that there are 16 million overweight adults in this country. If 300,000 people have adopted and used our catabolic system (and I think, considering the number of reducing diet booklets we have sold and the volume of mail on the subject, that would be a fair estimate), even at that figure we have reached less than 2 per cent of those we should reach. So we have a long way to go.
But it is high time now that we come to the most important part of our book, the discussion of the reducing diet itself, so let’s go!