I routinely ask my audiences for their commentary on the term “low carbohydrate diet”; the typical response / belief is that the low carb idea is somehow “new” or “revolutionary” and for that reason generally incorrectly credited to ‘Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution’ that was first published in 1972.
The truth of the matter is that Atkins premise was anything but original or revolutionary… and largely the reincarnation of the worlds first diet book authored by William Banting, who published his: ‘Letter of Corpulence Addressed to the Public’ in 1863, more than a century (specifically one hundred and nine years) before Atkins.
Corpulence: a state of excessive fleshiness, due not to muscular development, but an excess of fat deposited in the adipose tissues of the body.
William Banting: the true revolutionary… and father of the low carb diet ironically was not a physician or a dietician, but a five foot – five inch tall, sixty-six year old undertaker from England who formerly weighed two hundred and two pounds before his dietary experiment, Banting was so fat (how fat was he?) he was so fat… he could not tie his own shoes and the only way he could safely navigate his way down stairs was facing backwards.
Banting’s book chronicled his personal victory in his battle with obesity over a 14 month low carb (not low calorie) experiment: During that time Banting documented a reduction in his waist circumference of more that12 inches and lost 46 pounds (to a healthier weight of 156 lbs.).
Banting’s mission was purely altruistic, he published and distributed his ‘Letter of Corpulence’ at no charge to the public because he did not want his reasoning or motives questioned.
Banting’s ‘Letter of Corpulence’ became a literary sensation and made its way to France, Germany and America. By the 3rd printing Banting could no longer afford to print and distribute his book for free – so he offered it to the public solely for the cost of printing.
This letter is respectfully dedicated to the Public simply and entirely from an earnest desire to confer a benefit on my fellow creatures.
His letter begins: “Of all the parasites that affect humanity I do not know of, nor can I imagine any more distressing than that of obesity, and, having just emerged from a very long probation in this affliction, I am desirous of circulating my humble knowledge and experience for the benefit of my fellow man with an earnest hope it may lead to the same comfort and happiness I now feel under the extraordinary change”…
Banting had struggled with obesity for 20 years, he rightly refused to believe it was a natural part of aging, he interestingly equated obesity to the parasitic collection of barnacles on a ship – he had tried exercise and other popular tonics and remedies to no avail. Banting concluded the cause of his obesity was a simple one… “ I partook of the simple ailments of bread, milk, butter, beer, sugar and potatoes” … and thus his empirical experimentation and observations formed the thesis of the planets first low carb diet book.
Banting’s nutritional experiment was directed by Surgeon William Harvey who quite correctly believed that starches and sugars and milk (lactose) were the true cause of obesity. Banting followed the advice and ceased to consume bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer and potatoes that had formerly been his staples. Within days Banting felt immense improvement.
Banting’s meal plan:
Breakfast consisted of 5-6 ounces of any meat or fish (except pork) – tea without milk and one ounce of dry toast
Lunch 5-6 ounces of any meat (except pork), any vegetable (except potato), one ounce of dry toast, fruit and 2 or 3 glasses of claret, sherry Champaign or port.
Snack of fruit and black tea
Supper 3-4 ounces of any meat or fish (except pork) and a glass or two of claret
Banting would also enjoy a nightcap of gin whisky, brandy or sherry
Sleep 6 – 8 hours
It is abundantly evident that Banting enjoyed consuming alcohol – while his results surely would have been accelerated had he reduced his intake of libations… it is if nothing else noteworthy that some alcohol can form a part of a healthy lifestyle… just not quite as much as Mr. Banting (I will leave the term “some” to your common sense).
Though, you do have to cut Banting some slack; he and his physician Dr. Harvey were truly nutritional visionaries. At this point in the industrial revolution the introduction of processed foods were rapidly changing nutrition, yet much of what we know today was still a mystery. Identifying energy in food (calories) (circa 1896), hormones (circa1902) and vitamins (circa 1905) associated with foods and human health had yet to be discovered.
© 2011 Copyrights Grant Roberts, All Rights Reserved
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