Overweight And Its Reduction

Fat or lean, we today scarcely can avoid the question of overweight. The fashions, the drugstore counters, the magazines and newspapers, the doctors, the billboards and fat and lean people themselves emphasize and impress this subject upon us.

Now while scientists are fiddling with retort and test tubes and lecturing before clinics, and psychologists try to explain the modern trend of women to conduct regular orgies of reduction, as “psychic contagion,” and “mass phenomenon,” let us try to get to a practical working basis.

Obesity is not an indication of health, but of ill health – of general poisoning, of reduced functions of every organ of the body except those associated with assimilation. Fat is peculiar in that some people cannot pick up any of it, while others have trouble in dropping it after picking it up all too easily. Each individual has his own average normal weight based upon his skeletal frame and his muscles, upon his type as a whole – temperament and all. There is an optimum size of man for greatest convenience, efficiency and health; but, except for the pig there is no animal that gets so far above and beyond its most convenient size as the animal called man.

The poundage above normal may be slight, moderate or excessive. A German writer classified the degrees as: the enviable stage, presenting a pleasing rotundity; the comical or ludicrous stage, the jovial Falstaff type; and the pitiable stage, that of unwieldy deformity. The first stage adds to the beauty and attractiveness of the human form, especially the female form, covering angles and sharp corners, and it is a distinct health asset, especially in early years. It requires careful watching and moderate efforts to prevent the encroachment upon it of the second stage. And the two latter stages are tragic and harmful so far as health and life expectancy are concerned, and require definite efforts, without compromise, toward reduction.

Many fat persons, especially those who have fought obesity unsuccessfully, try to shoulder responsibility for the condition upon somebody or something else than that of which they have direct control. Heredity is blamed, or an unusually vigorous digestion and assimilation; or a reduced rate of combustion, which no one is able to account for; or abnormal functioning of some of the glands of internal secretion (thyroid, pituitary, sexual).

The principal cause of obesity, however, is the intakes of food in excess of the body requirements, in excess of energy output – too much food and too little exercise. Unless one takes into his body more food than it requires in any of the above-mentioned conditions and leads an indolent life or at most secures insufficient open-air activity, there can be no gradual gain in oleaginous excess. This puts the production and the reduction of one’s corpulence directly up to the individual himself, where it belongs, except in those early cases which show some developmental defects and do not come under the subject of simple obesity. They are not common.

It is not natural to gain weight as one grows older. At fifty one should weigh no more than one did at twenty-five, if one had reached normal weight at twenty-five. One grows heavier as one grows older merely because one takes life easier and indulges his appetites.

But whether older or younger, if one puts on weight one becomes progressively less inclined to physical activity. This helps one to put on more weight, which makes one still lazier. Thus a circle is established that leads sometimes to mammoth proportions and that cuts one’s physical and mental efficiency and will power in half. Because there are no symptoms associated with the early gain, little or no thought is given to it. Frequently it is only after great abnormalities have been created in girth and functional or organic disturbances, that the fat is taken seriously and efforts made to cut some of it from the frame. For obesity is more perilous than even airplane travel.

In the swinging of the pendulum, however, we find large numbers who are now much below their individual weight, from misapplied reducing methods. This is not so much the result of reducing measures employed to take off fat after its development. The modern girl has employed effective means of keeping the weight from accumulating so that it does not have to be taken off. From being merely supple she has become actually anemic and malnourished. The extreme thinness of the modern girl does not indicate health, by any means. The modiste is chiefly responsible for the recent trend toward unattractive, unhealthy thinness. The ideal stage is a normally rounded figure, instead of the angular one we have seen so frequently in recent years.

In the treatment of obesity there is no short cut. There are some agencies designed to rub fat off, some to squeeze it out, some to sweat it out, others to wash it away, and so on. The reason these have become popular is that they may permit the person to satisfy his palate as much as he desires and to avoid physical exertion. But they do not reduce fat – unless they so disrupt the digestive mechanism that one cannot digest and assimilate the food consumed. The only curatives of any value in obesity are certain gland preparations which are indicated in more or less definite gland obesities. These should be prescribed by a qualified physician under careful supervision or serious harm may result.

The aim to be sought in bringing about reduction should be not merely to take off several or many pounds and to increase oxidation, but to build the body chemistry and restore tone of nerves and muscles. It is necessary to bring about depletion, but this must not be done at the expense of nutrition. A more pleasing figure is not the sole aim; greater energy and vitality should be secured at the same time. Even a child knows that if one does not take food into the body there must be a loss of weight. One must balance his diet, then – somewhere between no food and too much food, though total abstinence from food for short periods of time will have a very favorable effect.

The absolute fast is not to be advised for pronounced obesity without proper supervision. It is not necessary, however, to fast long enough to endanger one’s health, to quite favorably effect the elimination, metabolism and other functions involved. A plan that deteriorates vitality in any degree, or one that brings the weight down but does not help to keep it there is of no practical value and had better be left alone. Hence, even though the fast is taken there must be suitable diet following if the good results secured are to be maintained.

The best method of pursuing a fast is for three or four days at intervals of two weeks or so, and then to eat only such small quantities of all classes of foods between fasting periods that there will be a still further gradual reduction.

Another excellent fasting plan is to fast on alternate days, or fast one day out of three. If there is sufficient energy, red blood cells and hemoglobin, and high or normal blood pressure one easily may fast for a week or ten days – provided he has the will power. In most cases a fast of this duration can be continued without medical supervision.

Of course, if one consumes large quantities of food after the fast one will regain weight, and perhaps suffer still worse effects. But if all classes of foods are consumed in small quantities, with fats cut to a minimum or probably entirely eliminated, the body will be amply nourished and there need be no further gain – if there be the exercise that there should be for best general health. Many people do better by taking one half dozen oranges a day or two or three grapefruits with no other food. They may be able to keep on this diet for a much longer period of time, and with safety, than they can on the water fast. The reduction is not quite so rapid, when a limited amount of food is taken, but one can be assured that he is “playing safe.”

Another good plan is to reduce the number of meals taken daily. The one-meal plan is excellent, though this one meal must be no larger than any one of the meals formerly taken. Reduction of fattening elements should be observed in this one meal if best results are to be secured. Two meals may be taken, in which case the amount chosen for the two meals should be little more than that for the one meal, unless there is less overweight or less vitality. After the weight has been reduced appreciably by any of the above diets the two-meal plan may be followed with continued good results.

Perhaps the majority will prefer to continue on their three-meal plan. So far as general health preservation is concerned this is a safe method, and there is not likely to be any tendency toward “starvation” if proper foods are used. I mention this because there are many who still believe that one cannot fast or take a greatly reduced diet without endangering the health. But the three-meal plan is not so effective as a reducing measure, for the average person cannot or will not control his appetite sufficiently to eat three meals a day and still eat little enough to lose weight.

It is best for these to eat alone and to have set out just what is to be eaten – this amount being well selected from meal to meal to give variety and all needed elements for a protracted course of dieting. This plan will require several months, if one is thirty or more per cent above normal, to bring the weight to normal.

Many conjure up visions of starvation diets, untasty dishes, and monotony when “dieting” is mentioned. When a person becomes emaciated by the ingestion of non-nourishing foods and then adopts a diet of vital foods so that his body regains its weight and quota of red blood cells and hemoglobin, he is dieting, but certainly he is not being starved, and most likely is enjoying his diet thoroughly. Thus it is with the obese. The foods to be permitted may be more tasty, more nourishing than the foods previously consumed; it is merely that certain foods are omitted from the diet and the quantity somewhat reduced. For a time one may possibly notice a disturbing hunger, but this is the result of habit. This will quickly give way to perfect satisfaction on the reduced rations.

Since fat has nine times the fattening effects of starches, fat must be especially reduced; but sugars and starches likewise should be reduced appreciably and other foods to some extent. If the diet is low in general an occasional starch food, especially potato, may be allowed. It is impossible to select a wide range of foods in which fat and some fattening elements are completely absent. The requirements, then, are merely to select foods with less fattening elements, to reduce the quantities of all foods, and to reduce the variety at each meal. It is the temptations of variety that lead to overeating and that cause one to become hungry before meal-time and ravenous by meal-time.

Here I give briefly the constituents of the three meals, and any housewife may select various similar foods for different days to avoid monotony. If one eats in a restaurant or boarding house, at least some of these foods will be available, and what are not must of course be left out, thus helping to bring about more rapid reduction.

The breakfast should be of fresh fruit only, using any one preferred, including citrus fruits, berries, melons, tomatoes, apples or grapes. These are not to be sweetened. Or there may be added to the list acid fruits and berries, a slice or two of toasted whole wheat bread or rye bread or shredded wheat biscuit; or an egg or two (not fried) occasionally when it is desired to omit one of the other meals. A glass of milk, whole or skimmed or buttermilk, if desired, or of half milk and half water may be taken at the end of this meal.

The noon-day meal may include one cooked vegetable, one or more salad vegetables and some form of protein (meat, fowl, fish or cottage cheese), with a fruit dessert, unsweetened. Instead, this meal may be entirely of green vegetables, cooked or raw or both; or of fresh fruits, melons or berries; or a meat or other protein and all the salad vegetables desired.

The evening meal may be of clear non-starchy vegetable soup, with toast or dry bread, cooked and raw vegetables, protein if desired, and a fruit dessert. The vegetables must be mainly non-starchy, A better meal for at least half the week would be a simple protein, raw salad, non-starchy vegetables, and berries or fruit for dessert. Those trying to reduce should not use soups frequently.

It should not be forgotten that there should be a fasting day occasionally, and days on which only one or two meals are used instead of three. At any time desired a meal may be supplanted by fruit or melon or green vegetables alone or a glass of milk or buttermilk. By using more of the green vegetables, especially in salad form, one will feel quite satisfied, because these are filling. Most of the green vegetables that are taken cooked and green vegetable soups have the same filling effect; but rich purees should be avoided or taken practically alone. The more one masticates the food the more quickly will one become satisfied at meal time, and the less food will be required – both to appease hunger and to satisfy the bodily needs. This is of much value when one desires to eat as much as may be desired and still reduce.

A diet that is beneficial for reducing and that is quite filling, and at the same time that supplies the protective elements is one of milk and bananas. One may take a quart or two of any form of sweet or sour milk a day and from four to six ripe bananas, with no other food. These may be divided into two or three meals or taken at two or three hour intervals throughout the day.

While strenuous exercise may not be advisable because of some functional or organic condition, it is absolutely necessary to exercise somewhat if best reducing results are to be secured. One value of exercise is that it uses more food or stored fats for energy; also it develops harder muscles, and fat does not adhere or develop so much over hard muscles as over flabby ones.

Hiking, hill-climbing, and swimming especially are valuable, tennis also. Indoor exercises should be taken for thirty minutes once a day at first (with pauses for deep breathing), and later twice a day. These should include body-bending and body-doublings, squatting, leg-raising and various other leg movements while reclining, such as swaying the legs from side to side, touching the toes back of the head, and doing the inverted bicycle-riding motions. If the fat is accumulated in certain regions more noticeably than in others these parts may be exercised more vigorously or more often or for a longer time than other parts. There will be a somewhat more pronounced reduction over these parts receiving special exercise, though one should not expect to mould the body into the shape desired wholly by exercising the larger parts.

General exercises should not be neglected, for by these the heart and the lungs arc exercised more directly than by use of smaller groups of muscles or those of restricted regions.

To consider sweat-baths for reducing, the one and only way fat can be gotten out of the body is by having it burned up, or oxidized. As a result the residue passes out of the body as carbon-dioxide, through the lungs, and as water through all of the eliminative channels. Practically all that one loses in sweat-baths is water, and even if one should lose two pounds or more in an electric-cabinet or steam-cabinet bath or blanket-pack or by other means within a short time, this will be replaced quickly if water is drunk or if other fluid is taken. If one does not take fluid and continues to employ the sweat-baths there will be a dehydration, which will induce toxemia, because the cells of the body require a proper amount of fluid in order to eliminate effectively their waste products.

Cold baths are much better for reducing than are hot baths. When a cold bath is taken a reaction is necessary to provide warmth, and this warmth is created by the combustion of food stored up as fat. In this way the fat necessarily reduces; and if cold baths are taken daily, and especially if there are exercises following the bath to hasten the reaction, there will be a genuine loss of fat and not merely a loss of weight through disappearance of water. This is one reason why swimming is excellent for reducing when the diet is controlled: there is the reducing effect of the cold water and of the reaction necessary, and also of the exercise of swimming.

The rapidity with which one may reduce may depend upon several factors, such as type of fat and amount of overweight. Ordinarily a loss of two pounds a week is sufficient, though less rapid reduction than this is permissible when but slightly overweight; and up to three or four pounds a week may be lost without physical harm when the fat is considerable and of the flabby sort. If one is under supervision, it may be possible to lose even ten to fifteen pounds the first week, but when the reduction is done on one’s own initiative it is much better to reduce more slowly. Even two pounds a week continued for three months will bring the weight down twenty-five pounds, and this will be at no expense of bodily energies.

If women not too excessively heavy get down to normal weight (about two pounds for each inch of stature) within six months or more they have reduced rapidly enough and safely enough. If one comes to a standstill before the weight is down to that desired, it may be reduction on the same diet may occur within a few days; if not, one should omit a meal or a day of meals, or lower the quantity at one or more meals, or continue the same quantity of food while exercising more strenuously.

The weight is not likely to reduce as rapidly after the first or second week, but the amount of food and the amount of exercise may be governed by the progress made. As a rule the diet will have to be somewhat reduced or exercise taken more strenuously as time progresses to accomplish the same rate of reduction – for the reason that progressively the remaining fat is more solid.

One should weigh oneself about once a week. Daily fluctuations in weight may be too discouraging or too encouraging if the weight is taken daily. If one attends a gymnasium regularly or has one’s own bathroom scales, this frequent weighing will be easy. If neither of these is available then select good scales in some shop and weigh regularly at the same time of the day weekly, and wearing as nearly as possible the same clothes.

Other requirements for reducing are relaxation and bathing. Most fat people have rested and relaxed quite regularly but when they find their weight going down and their energies going up by the proper methods they may overdo their activity and frazzle the nerves by insufficient rest, or overwork the heart. This must be avoided by having regular and adequate periods and allowance of time for the sleep and relaxation.

As to bathing, if one bathes daily in cold water there will not be need for frequent soap cleansing baths, but a quick tepid soap bath may be taken as often as required. Friction baths will help maintain surface cleanliness, at the same time helping to reduce by the massage effect and the exercise involved, and will aid in maintaining adequate bowel cleanliness also. The foods suggested and the exercises that should be taken will maintain normal bowel activity. One may use bran moderately to aid the bowels, this being also good filler; but care must be taken not to use this excessively or it will ultimately result in diminishing of the intestinal responses, with consequent constipation.

There is no shortcut to reducing by the use of drugs that is safe and sane. Among types of “reducers” there are some that claim to wash away fat – or one is led to believe that they do. Of others it is said that, when they are used on certain overweight parts, then presto! the part dwindles to sylph-like proportions! But such parts will not reduce in this manner.

Some of these have ingredients that produce floating flocculent masses on the bath water which the gullible public is misinformed is fat that has come off or out of the body! Various salts and other medical substances are used in soaps, bath powders and lotions to “wash” the fat away. Either the sweating of the hot bath or the massage or rubbing associated with it may have some slight reducing effect, but it is only temporary even then.

While the advertisements of these and of the internal anti-fat remedies claim that dieting and exercise are not necessary, yet in instructions accompanying these reducers, natural weight-reducing factors frequently are stressed; and usually it is these that produce whatever results are secured. One must get on the proper program of eating, exercising, bathing, relaxing and sleeping, and must stick to this program, and through it all maintain a cheerful, hopeful attitude. For the results are bound to be gratifying if one pursues this program with persistence.