Weight loss scams are older than you think
Medical quackery is an ancient art that is as old as civilization itself. Weight loss humbuggery has also been around a long time as well. In the mid 19th century a man named Dr. James H. Salisbury invented a new type of food he called "pulp of beef muscle". It consisted of a fried or boiled patty of ground beef. Dr. Salisbury believed that obesity, as well as cancer, heart disease, tuberculosis, and mental illness was caused by eating fruit and vegetables, and advocated eating a diet heavy in his “pulp of beef muscle”, at least three times a day making up more than 2/3rds of your diet. It was an early form of the Atkins diet taken to the extreme. Dr. Salisbury’s new diet became a craze in the United States in the late 19th century. Essentially, it was the first fad diet. Today, Dr. Salisbury’s “pulp of beef muscle” is now called “Salisbury Steak”.
In the early 20th century, weight loss “obesity” soaps became all the craze. Why diet and exercise when you can simply bathe or shower every day with soap specially designed to melt the fat away? Often these special bars could cost as much as $60 in today’s money. Most were just soap with no special ingredients.
Weight loss scams in the late 19th and early 20th century were numerous and myriad. Many were outright ridiculous, but has anything really changed? Today we are living in the golden age of weight loss fraud, especially because people living in modern wealthy countries are living in the fattest society in history. The forms of media have changed and the language has changed. The terms “humbuggery” and “flimflammery” have been replaced with “bullshit” and “fuckery”, but other than that little has changed. Its the same old scams and the same kind of people conducting the scams, preying upon people’s weaknesses with a quick and easy solution. For example, in the early to mid 20th century, the Mueller Exercise machine was very popular. Basically, the idea behind it was to use vibration to tone and firm, literally jiggle the fat away. They were everywhere, in almost every gym and fitness center.
Now we scoff at such a ridiculous idea, but behold!
There are a myriad of other examples of old scams that still exist today.
The fact of the matter is that there is no magic weight loss solution. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. There is no pill or machine that can melt away fat without effort. Watch TV ads carefully. That magic pill that can lose five pounds a week always has a notice that is so small its barely readable, flashed for less than a second, which reads something like, “to be used with diet and exercise”. Prescription pills are no easy option either, many of them require diet and exercise as well. They also have dangerous side effects. Remember Fen Fen? It was a weight loss drug popular in the 1990’s that was found to cause heart valve defects, congestive heart failure, and heart attacks. Hundreds died, thousands were hospitalized, and 50,000 lawsuits were filed. Bariatric surgery is not an easy solution either. I have heard some say that bariatric surgery is worse than losing the weight the old fashioned way. Those who undergo gastric bypass or lap band surgery face a myriad of risks and health problems. It’s painful and traumatic. Sometimes things go wrong. I remember when I was doing my clinical internship as a respiratory therapist, I had a patient who underwent the surgery and developed a terrible bleeding ulcer. He was vomiting blood profusely, and almost died. He was lucky. Also, many bariatric surgeries fail because the people who undergo them do not really learn about nutrition and discipline fully, and they gain back all the weight. Bariatric surgery should always be a last resort. Liposuction sounds downright terrifying.
Also beware fad diets, starvation diets, and crash diets. I actually hate the word “diet”. The word seems to imply that it’s a temporary thing. A diet is not a temporary thing, it’s a lifetime commitment. It must be something that is sustainable. Beware diets that make you eat one type of food, or advocate total abstinence from any other food groups. My mom lost something like 10 lbs in a week a few years ago on this diet where she ate nothing but cabbage soup. She gained it all back quickly. When evaluating the effectiveness of a diet, you’ve got to ask yourself, “is this something I can do for the rest of my life?” Can you eat only 1,000 calories a day for the rest of your life? Do you want to eat nothing but raw food, or cabbage soup, or meat, or only drink kale shakes for the rest of your life? Obviously, the Salisbury diet fails this litmus test because who would want to eat mostly Salisbury steak for the rest of their life?
The only long term solution is simply sensible eating and exercise. I didn’t say it was easy, I said it was simple. There’s a difference. Eat a balanced diet consisting of fruit, vegetables, complex carbs, good fats and good cholesterol, fish, and lean meats. Eat in moderation, but don’t totally deny yourself, splurge now and then. Limit bad fats and bad cholesterol, simple carbs, salt, and sugar. Avoid processed sugar and high fructose corn syrup like the plague! Drink lots of water. Look at food labels. Some things that seem healthy are really not. For example 12 oz of orange juice has almost as much sugar as a 12 oz can of Pepsi. A granola bar is not much different calorie wise than a candy bar. Most salad dressings are pure fat. Beware how companies label their products. Sometime they will take a fatty, sugary food, then label the portion size so small that it seems healthy, but really isn’t. Finally, exercise regularly, get your heart pumping, get those muscles aching! Beware anyone who claims they can help you lose the weight with little or no effort. Beware modern day humbuggery and flimflammery.
Like I said, it won’t be easy. Few things in life that are good come easy. It will require motivation, determination, and DISCIPLINE. It will take courage, heart, and character. Most importantly, it will require lots of faith, faith in yourself, faith that you have what it takes to get it done. There will be failures. There will be moments of weakness, when you binge eat, stop working out for a while. The same goes for any addiction, be it food, smoking, drugs, alcohol, sex, video games, gambling, whatever. Never give up because you failed and fell off the wagon. Failure is only temporary. Get back up, dust yourself off, keep trying, and learn from your mistakes. Never give up, no matter how many times you fail. Always keep your end goal in mind. Once you succeed, its not over. Like I said, its a lifetime commitment. But when you do it, you will be so much happier, healthier, and confident. You will have accomplished something great, something that you can hang your hat on at the end of the day.
Never Again 360