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Letter On Corpulence Paperback – January 22, 2012
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From the Back Cover
In what's billed as the "world's first diet book," William Banting offered his strategy for losing weight. He ate four meals a day, didn't exercise much, drank alcohol, and swore off only a few foods. And, what's more, anyone familiar with current low-carb diets will find similar advice here -- advice given in 1864.
WILLIAM BANTING was a carpenter in Victorian London whose weight spiraled out of control. His eyesight and hearing failed, he had weak knees, and he suffered an umbilical rupture, health problems he attributed to his weight. He consulted doctors but nothing helped. Then Banting discovered this diet and got results within just a few days. He ate lots of meat, a few vegetables, shunned some foods that he's previously overindulged in, and drank alcohol with lunch and dinner. He lost fifty pounds, and his health improved. He published this pamphlet detailing his diet and distributed the copies for free. By its third printing it had sold 63,000 copies, and the term "Banting" became synonymous with "dieting" in England. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
WILLIAM BANTING was a carpenter in Victorian London whose weight spiraled out of control. His eyesight and hearing failed, he had weak knees, and he suffered an umbilical rupture, health problems he attributed to his weight. He consulted doctors but nothing helped. Then Banting discovered this diet and got results within just a few days. He ate lots of meat, a few vegetables, shunned some foods that he's previously overindulged in, and drank alcohol with lunch and dinner. He lost fifty pounds, and his health improved.
He published this pamphlet detailing his diet and distributed the copies for free. By its third printing it had sold 63,000 copies, and the term "Banting" became synonymous with "dieting" in England. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
This small book was first published in 1863 at the cost of the author, a London area undertaker, who used this LCHF diet - specifically designed for simplicity - to cure his own major obesity - and several medical problems that developed as his obesity worsened).
It was meant to educate the very obese peoples (of most classes) of that Victorian Era of a simple diet LIFESTYLE system (it is NOT a diet that one temporarily goes on and then off of when goals are met as fattening condition will simply return - usually worse - leading to the dreaded "yo-yo" dieting) not to be some comprehensive low carb manual.
It is a historic document as much as anything else (being, I think, the first book specifying a very low carb diet for weight loss and medical purposes), though - properly tweaked (for example butter is excellent on this diet system, likewise tropical oils like coconut oil and palm oil would be perfectly acceptable though not heard of likely... and of course the use of pork and any other animal or seafood product; note that butter and pork were restricted back then MAINLY because it was - erroneously - thought that butter and pork contained starch... plus dairy production was poorly regulated and unpasteurized and UNDERCOOKED pork was known to carry some diseases such as pork tapeworm and trichinosis, less of a problem today due to sanitation improvements and to freezing of meats).
Mr. Banting did not "invent" the LOW carb diet. He was put in it by one of his doctors (out if a long line that he had seen prior to that) by the name of Dr. William Harvey. Doctor Harvey had found out about the core basics of this program's system previously at a conference in Paris. He had learnt of this type of diet had learnt of this type of diet, but in the context of diabetes management, from attending lectures in Paris by Claude Bernard, a French physiologist.
Gary Taubes' recent study of carbohydrates, Good Calories, Bad Calories, begins with a prologue entitled "A brief history of Banting" and discusses Banting at some length.
A couple of things should be noted.
First was that Banting was publicly vilified by the medical authorities for advancing a low-carbohydrate diet and false rumours were spread, claiming his diet had destroyed his health. It was so contrary to the established doctrine that it set up a howl of protest among members of the medical profession. The 'Banting Diet' became the centre of a bitter controversy and Banting's papers and book were ridiculed and distorted. As a layman had published it, and medical men were anxious that their position in society should not be undermined, they felt bound to attack it. Banting's paper was criticised solely on the grounds that it was 'unscientific'. The attacks on Banting prefigured similar rumours spread about Robert Atkins, and the Atkins Foundation maintains Banting's works on its website.
Likewise, Dr. Harvey had a problem too. He had an effective treatment for obesity but not a convincing theory to explain it. As he was a medical man, and so easier for the other members of his profession to attack, he came in for a great deal of ridicule until, in the end, his practice began to suffer.
However, the public was impressed. Many desperate, overweight people tried the diet and found that it worked. Like it or not, the medical profession could not ignore it. Its obvious success meant that the Banting Diet had to be explained somehow.
To the rescue from Stuttgart came a Dr. Felix Niemeyer. He managed to make the new diet acceptable with a total shift in its philosophy. After examining Banting's paper, Niemeyer came up with an answer to the doctors' problem. All doctors "KNEW" that protein was not fattening, only the "respiratory foods" (as they were called then) — carbohydrates... and fats (which in fact are NOT fattening!). He, therefore, interpreted 'meat' to mean only LEAN meat with the fat trimmed off and this subtle change solved the problem - for many of the medical establishment. The Banting Diet became a high protein diet with both carbohydrate and fat restricted. This altered diet became enshrined in history and still forms the basis of MOST low carbohydrate type slimming diets today (even the Atkins Diet is primarily oriented towards low carb, high protein, fairly moderate fat).
Banting's descriptions of the diet are quite clear, however. Other than the prohibition against butter and pork, nowhere is there any instruction to remove the fat from meat and there is no restriction on the way food was cooked or on the total quantity of food which may be taken. Only carbohydrate — sugars and starches — are restricted. The reason that butter and pork were denied him was that it was thought at this time that they too contained starch.
Banting, who lived in physical comfort and remained at a normal weight until his death in 1878 at the age of 81, always maintained that Dr. Niemeyer's altered diet was far INFERIOR to the one that had so changed his life.
I found it disturbing the the Introduction given for this book indicated that Mr. Banting was a carpenter. In fact he was a notable undertaker in London (*).
It also stated that Mr. Banting published these books for free. Banting charged nothing for the first two editions of his book — he didn't want the accused of doing it merely for profit. He had printed 1,000 copies of the first edition and he gave them away. The second edition numbered 1,500 which he also gave away although they cost him 6d each. These two initial editions initially were self-published (initially because no publisher would accept it). The self-published edition was so popular (selling out rapidly) that he determined to sell it to the general public. The third and later editions were published by Harrison Publishers of London.
(*) In fact, the family business of William Banting of St. James’s Street, London, was among the most eminent companies of funeral directors in Britain. As funeral directors to the Royal Household itself, the Banting family conducted the funerals of King George III in 1820, King George IV in 1830, the Duke of Gloucester in 1834, the Duke of Wellington in 1852, Prince Albert in 1861, and many others including very many of the upper class... a LOT different than a carpenter. He was a carpenter only in the sense of his carpentry skills along with metalworking and other aspects in the making of notably fine coffins.
Banting shows how getting away from starches and breads and focusing on real meats and natural foods can help keep weight under control and help to fight of things like diabetes and heart disease.
I run a nutrition website called regained wellness.com and I refer back to these old works a lot along with Weston A. Price as these guys helped to lay the groundwork for the real food and paleo movements.
Even though books like these are all the information in them is more relevant than ever today
Banting's formula was simple to understand and holds true today: No Sugar, No Starch, No Bread, No Beer(Banting excepted spirits, which had no effect on Insulin, which wouldn't be known for some decades.). Cut through all the modern fussiness (Paleo, Primal etc) and hold to the principal of: NO S.S.B.B., and you won't go wrong.
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