Thursday, December 2, 2010


My mother in law handed on to me a recent issue of Ladies Home Journal which happened to contain an article called 12 Ways to Think Yourself Thinner -- the link lets you look at the article in its entirety. (Here's a diet-blog's take on it too)

The Ladies Home Journal article seems to refer to cognitive behavior therapy which apparently has had among the best statistical results so far for weight loss and maintenance.   The apparent idea is to "think thin"  "change your thinking patterns"and consequently, change your behavior(Those last two sentences were just ways to incorporate a bunch of links and weren't necessarily representative of CBT in a nutshell).

Looking at the "12 Ways" -- I am not sure they qualify as "diet therapy" (as the cover billed them), but some of them make some sense, and I am thinking about blogging a bit about them because as you can see from my maintenance chart on the bottom of the page, December and January are traditionally the "up" part of my rollercoaster.  I have been maintaining a smallish but significant weight loss for 5 months now, but I know that the combination of stress, comfort food, cold and darkness makes the time between Thanksgiving and Lent a danger zone so far as good eating goes. 

By the way, a quick look at the Google Library reveals very few 19th century books written on the subject of obesity and weight reduction and diet -- but you can get a lot more results by typing in "gluttony"

Gluttony may be defined " an immoral and unintelleotual abandonment o' the sowl o' man to his gustative natur." I defy a brute animal to be a glutton. A swine's no a glutton. Nae creatur but man can be a glutton. A' the rest are prevented by the definition. -- James Hogg
Even in a brogue that reminds me of my Scots-Canadian grandpa. 

I think it interesting that the preoccupation of earlier generations was not so much with outer appearance as with interior thinking leading to action.    This has only a bit to do with numbers on the scale, or dress size.   There are thin gluttons walking around. 

I did find a small friendly treatise entitled encouragingly  Why Be Fat?

....When I was still a young girl I suddenly became conscious of the fact that I had accumulated more flesh than was either comfortable or becoming. I started in at once, with my own system, determining that my handmaidens should be patience and perseverance.

That I have been successful in reducing my flesh to a marked extent without any ill effects and in retaining my youthful appearance has proved my system to be of such benefit that I wish to pass it on to all those who are inclined, unwillingly, to corpulence or middle age. So often I am asked, "What did you do to lose so much flesh and not make yourself ill, and yet look so much younger than you did twenty years ago?" As my system has proved so beneficial, I wish to place it before the general public; and my advice to every one is to follow closely the rules of this book if they want to obtain, through healthful, right living, the same results as did

Amelia Summerville.
New York
January, 1916
 It's interesting to see a real self-help book written almost a century ago.   This one was even, I believe, written by an actress.    But I can't imagine any actress today writing that she determined that her handmaidens should be patience and perseverance.    Not even an actress's ghostwriter would write such a thing. 

By the way, I wonder if "Cognitive Behavior Therapy" is a new way of saying "Character Building" without
the emotional punch that most people feel (or at least I do) when they see the latter words.   I think that the past couple of centuries has wreaked havoc with the idea of the role of "will" in virtue.    I can't even read something that purports to build my character without feeling a huge discouragement -- which certainly doesn't help me put the suggestions into effect.   But "Cognitive Behavior Therapy"  -- that is, thinking in a constructive way, putting the thinking into practice by sensible and workable behavior changes, for a therapeutic or healthful result -- that actually seems to make a difference.   And yet it is basically what was always recommended (though it lacks, of course, any recourse to the immortal soul )    I am running out of time, but I would like to think about that some more.   

Hmm, on second thought -- I don't think they are quite the same thing.  It comes down to the difference between James Hogg's focus on the disposition and behavior, vs Amelia Summerville's focus on the results.   There is nothing wrong with trying to lose weight to improve health and appearance, but it is not the same thing as trying to become more virtuous.   They might overlap sometimes -- you might lose weight after you improve your behavior, for example -- but the goals are different.  Or so I'm thinking...

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