Fat in the Fifties
September 29, 2013 5:15 PM   Subscribe

In 1954, Life magazine published an article entitled "The Plague of Overweight" with a series of photos of a woman named Dorothy Bradley. The story features some now-familiar tropes about fat people ("197-pound Dorothy ... covered up embarrassment by being jolly and gregarious"; "Dorothy envies slim girl's milkshake"). It is also notable as an early appearance of the concept of an obesity "epidemic".
posted by dontjumplarry (109 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Great gym photos.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:17 PM on September 29, 2013


On the positive side, very few women wear a size 40 today.
posted by miyabo at 5:22 PM on September 29, 2013


How about the jaded nutritionist? Looks so not impressed that her client has been skipping her mandatory daily grapefruit.
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:28 PM on September 29, 2013


MUST FOODS
EAT DAILY:

MILK — one pint
MEAT or FISH
EGGS: TWO ...
POTATO
BREAD or CEREAL
BUTTER or MARGARINE

From the "Dorothy ... meets with a nutritionist" pic
posted by stargell at 5:29 PM on September 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Some of those photos are amazing.

Yeah, her size 40 would probably be a 22, today. Possibly smaller.
posted by marimeko at 5:29 PM on September 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Aw, I want to give her a hug and be her friend. She looks so forlorn!
I liked that there was a happy ending.
posted by bleep at 5:31 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bread, Potato? Wow that's a lot of starch.
posted by MikeWarot at 5:32 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


These pictures seem designed to make her look as miserable as possible. Photojournalism can lie sometimes.
posted by mirepoix at 5:32 PM on September 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


Fat people: all they do, ever, is covet skinny people's food and look "forlorn" outside tunnels of love.
posted by mirepoix at 5:33 PM on September 29, 2013 [33 favorites]




I liked that there was a happy ending.

Me, too, although I'm concerned about how the photo set portrays this as the only option for a happy ending. "Lose weight, get man, be happy." That may have been the subject's own preferred trajectory, but it doesn't necessarily stand in for everybody's experience. The photos were clearly set up to portray a miserable person seeking a specific solution to her misery, but then the editorial content turns it around and portrays it as an epidemic. Hmm. I am not sold.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 5:36 PM on September 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yeah, her size 40 would probably be a 22, today. Possibly smaller.

That was what I was thinking when I was looking at her. The women I know who are in that weight range are probably taller than she is and size 14/16.
posted by immlass at 5:40 PM on September 29, 2013


I couldn't help noticing that her "new improved" weight of 155 would probably be considered "overweight" by some today.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:40 PM on September 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


I couldn't help noticing that her "new improved" weight of 155 would probably be considered "overweight" by some today.

It's funny, I had just the opposite reaction; that her original size, which seems to be portrayed in the article as some kind of emergency, is well within my conception of normal range.
posted by escabeche at 5:46 PM on September 29, 2013 [21 favorites]


Alert: Mass-media from 1954 isn't fat positive. I'm shocked, shocked.
posted by bleep at 5:47 PM on September 29, 2013


Alert: Mass-media from 1954 isn't fat positive. I'm shocked, shocked.

Oh whatever. There are possible reactions besides "shocked" and "bored." The details here are interesting. (The clothing! The exercise gear! That sign at the nutritionist's!) Hell, even the details of how they went about being non-fat-positive are interesting. (That awful sweatsuit! The manipulatively forlorn look in every photo!) And if for some reason the article had been fat positive, I'd probably still find those same sorts of details interesting...
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 5:57 PM on September 29, 2013 [26 favorites]


Alert: Mass-media from 1954 isn't fat positive. I'm shocked, shocked.

I get your point, but I'm going to be more sympathetic to the people of that generation with respect to how they defined obesity and their reaction to it. I do not think it fair to criticize them for not being "fat positive." Americans during the Depression literally were malnourished and underweight, and the war year rationing did not do a lot to correct this. My own parents are my example; although genetically their direct descendant, I am a good 6-inches taller and 50 or 60 pounds heavier than either of them ever was, because I grew up in the '60s and '70s. In sum, the threshold for the popular conception of obesity in mid-century America would naturally be lower than our own, well-fed (over-stuffed) 21st-century version of America. The subject of this photo essay would not stand out in a crowd today at all; back then, she really did stand out. That said, I do think the article is alarmist and exploitative.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 5:57 PM on September 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


Interesting to see that, of all things, gray sweats have not changed since 1949. I'm also pretty sure I've never seen any image of a woman wearing gray sweats pre 70's before.
posted by marimeko at 6:01 PM on September 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'd love to see the full text for that.

And wow, those workouts look seriously unfun and time-wasting.
posted by Kurichina at 6:05 PM on September 29, 2013


I wonder if she's still alive and how her life has gone since, irrespective of whether she kept the weight off or not.
posted by sweetkid at 6:08 PM on September 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


Alert: Mass-media from 1954 isn't fat positive. I'm shocked, shocked.

I don't understand your comment...unless you believe the small and vocal groups of people who create various blogs and videos with, "fat positive" messages has actually had a genuine impact on the societal perception of obesity today.

A bit of politically correct terminology is bandied about periodically, but, other than that, nothing has changed.
posted by Nibiru at 6:12 PM on September 29, 2013


I wonder if she's still alive and how her life has gone since, irrespective of whether she kept the weight off or not.

Dude, if I was in LIFE with this profile, I would not have kept the weight off.
posted by nevercalm at 6:18 PM on September 29, 2013


There are scans of the original article, "The Plague of Overweight," at Google Books. It's from the March 8, 1954 issue of LIFE, pp. 120-124. http://books.google.com/books?id=T0gEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA120

The photos are also available with some commentary at the LIFE site. http://life.time.com/culture/obesity-in-the-usa-photos-from-the-early-fight-against-a-plague-1954/
posted by hat at 6:21 PM on September 29, 2013 [5 favorites]




A pint of milk a day? Is that normal?

I haven't tasted milk since I was old enough to push the glass away. Isn't 2 cups of milk every day enough to make someone obese?
posted by dobbs at 6:41 PM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


A pint of whole milk has 300 calories. But unlike soda or salty snacks, it would REALLY fill you up. It could easily end up being a net positive for many people.
posted by miyabo at 6:44 PM on September 29, 2013 [15 favorites]


Also, to get her nursing degree, she had to pass a physical that had a weight requirement; and that's why losing the weight was such a big deal. Her education would have been for naught, could she not get down to the mandated size.
posted by dejah420 at 6:47 PM on September 29, 2013 [12 favorites]


Okay, so what is that thing that looks like...like I don't know what it looks like, that she is diagonal on, at the gym? I think I need one but I am a little scared.
posted by mittens at 6:47 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder if she's still alive and how her life has gone since, irrespective of whether she kept the weight off or not.

It appears that she passed away in 1983.
posted by Knappster at 6:52 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is that normal

A pint of milk as one's "dairy" (one of the 4 food groups back in the day) would be roughly a slice of cheese and a container of yogurt in terms of calories and protein.
posted by marimeko at 6:53 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I haven't tasted milk since I was old enough to push the glass away.

You don't eat cereal for 2 meals a day? I guess I'm doing something wrong.
posted by Justinian at 6:54 PM on September 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


Whoo boy, the text of that article:

"The uncompromising truth is that obesity is caused by gluttony."

"The physical and mental reasons behind his greed are only now being discovered."

"She had overeaten from the time she began to mature, possibly because of an unconscious emotional turmoil."

And the kicker: "Most fat men and women refuse to be shamed or frightened into reducing." No matter how hard Life magazine tries!

Bonus: from the same issue, the creepiest photo of Audrey Hepburn ever. (Or the sexiest, depending on your particular tastes.) Bonus Audrey Hepburn facts: she had a tendency to undereat when stressed, and she was self-conscious about her collarbones and dressed to hide them. The 50s must have been a lousy time for feeling pretty.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:55 PM on September 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ugh, so complicated, with the pre-war nutrition scarcity (enough calories, sometimes, but not enough variety to keep people healthy) and post-war food abundance and nutritive supplementation. My grandmother was a tiny woman because she was malnourished as a child and teenager in the 20s and 30s. She was well-nourished during the war and the afterwards, and she kept getting pregnant with 8-pound babies that were much too big for her frame when everyone else she knew was having 6-pounders. She asked her doctor how she could have smaller babies, and he told her to diet while she was pregnant and to start smoking. The 50s were so great! /sarcasm
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:59 PM on September 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


In the picture where she measures her waist its 31". That's what, a size 10 in todays sizes? Maybe an 8 in mall brands like Gap.
posted by fshgrl at 6:59 PM on September 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


Wow, the definition of obese has really shifted. I would never think of someone that size being obese if I saw them in Sydney 2013.
posted by smoke at 7:04 PM on September 29, 2013


People don't really know what a normal weight looks like any more. I was in Europe and other Americans kept talking about how skinny everyone was! No, they were normal weight. You're just used to overweight people.

But Europe is catching up with us now. Congratulations, Europe.
posted by Justinian at 7:06 PM on September 29, 2013 [17 favorites]


Also, looking at that copy on Google Books, I'm ashamed to say I had no idea that pablum was actually a thing! You learn something new every day.
posted by smoke at 7:07 PM on September 29, 2013


Yeah, people have no idea of what normal is anymore. I was barely until my normal weight range and I was already getting "You're so skinny" and horrified looks when I said I wanted to lose more (to get smack dab in the middle of the normal range).
posted by entropicamericana at 7:19 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder what the gap was between the invention of the printing press and the first Scary Social Trend story.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Confucian Cultists in Capital"
Bianjing, September 13

Le'an is a typical youth raised here in Bianjing to follow the modern ways of the Sung Dynasty. He pays daily respects to his ancestors, studies hard and diligently meets his family obligations. In another year he hopes to pass the Imperial examination and join the government as a financial aide. He is by all measures a promising young man.

Le'an is also a Confucian.

"I realize that Confucianism sounds dated," he says as we sit in a tea house on the Yellow River. "That's part of the attraction. It harkens back to a more ordered era of our history. Things have become too confused now. Confucius' path brought order to social chaos and it is time to renew that spirit."

Le'an claims to be just one of many youth to feel this way, and to judge by the other young men in the tea house he is correct. By the time we finish our interview the room is quiet with every table listening to us in respectful silence. They don't seem like quiet types, and I finally remember that as Confucians they must wait to be addressed by their elder.

Once their tongues are unleashed they are anything but timid.

"Confucius was a contradiction," says one. "He gave us strict rules for how families and governments should behave, but at the same time he encouraged us to abandon all rules that led to immorality."

Abandoning all rules does not sound good to Lao Pe, owner of the tea house. "When I was in my youth I often wished things could be different. I even dabbled in Confucianism a little bit myself. Now that I'm older I am glad for stability."

Asked about his home life Le'an says there have been only the smallest problems. "If anything my parents are more happy with the honors I pay them. I've heard my mother bragging to friends about it." The biggest problem: "I wanted to add Confucius to the family shrine and we were literally out of space. I finally convinced my father to retire Da Yu. If there's a flood this year I'll be in serious trouble!" he says with a laugh.

After a few hours together I bid Le'an goodbye. I must admit that I admire the young man, and that he seems unlikely to "abandon all rules" as Confucian nay-sayers have warned. If anything he seems more attached to order than its opposite.

In any case Le'an and his friends are still young and just beginning to take their place in society. The young men I met will not be leading a revolt this year as they are all consumed with studying for the Imperial exam. If their Confucian leanings have any effect it will only be apparent as they rise through the Government ranks over the next fifty years.

And who knows? Perhaps a small change will be a welcome thing.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:28 PM on September 29, 2013 [22 favorites]


... covered up embarrassment by being jolly and gregarious

I'd sooner hang out with the jolly and gregarious Dorothy than that surly cow of a nutritionist.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:34 PM on September 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


Obesity is basically the perfect topic for this kind of social story though. You get to inflame all three of our animal drives: food, fear of sickness/death, and sex (tell me with a straight face that the major reason people lose weight isn't to find a better partner). Then there's the natural desire to gossip about and judge people in our community. It's great.
posted by miyabo at 7:34 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


These pictures seem designed to make her look as miserable as possible

Yeah seriously if a LIFE photojournalist were in my life right now the headline would be "SMALL LADIES: does drinking tea cause BITCHY RESTING FACE and render you FRIENDLESS?" Also I would be in jail for assaulting anyone trying to take a photo of my butt in sweats doing yoga, are you kidding me.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:36 PM on September 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


Even back in those unenlightened times, America had already figured out that fat people were undeserving of happiness or self-respect! In some ways, the people of the past were more like us than we realize. It's like finding out that the Pyramids were designed with really complex math and state-of-the-art technology and reasoning.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:39 PM on September 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


There are possible reactions besides "shocked" and "bored."

Obviously not very familiar with the internet. There's "squee/cute" of course, and "offended", if you don’t count that as part of "shocked", but that’s really all your choices.
posted by bongo_x at 7:44 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder what the gap was between the invention of the printing press and the first Scary Social Trend story.

Moral panics are nothing particularly new though there's a sick irony that this was also the golden era for weight gain ads.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:46 PM on September 29, 2013


Alert: Mass-media from 1954 isn't fat positive. I'm shocked, shocked.

Actually I posted this because I was a little bit surprised at how vicious its fat-shaming it was. The journalist really seems to go out of her way to ambush the subject, coaxing her into situations that fit the fat-shaming narrative. Like looking glumly at her food (to give the impression she has a pathological relationship to it), or "squeezing" through a turnstile, or looking mournfully at the bright, happy, peppy, skinny people.

This sort of contradicts that narrative that some people tell about the mid-century that it was a time when curvy women were more accepted.
posted by dontjumplarry at 8:09 PM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


For example, the notion that Marilyn Monroe was a size 16 (which is apparently an urban myth).
posted by dontjumplarry at 8:11 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


You don't eat cereal [with milk] for 2 meals a day?

I'm Canadian. We use rye.
posted by dobbs at 8:17 PM on September 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


50's weight gain ad
posted by bukvich at 8:18 PM on September 29, 2013


The saddest thing is that I looked at the photo of Audrey Hepburn linked above and immediately noticed the (totally normal!) bulge in her upper thigh; that would have been Photoshopped away in any contemporary fashion magazine.
posted by lalex at 8:22 PM on September 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


This sort of contradicts that narrative that some people tell about the mid-century that it was a time when curvy women were more accepted.

We might juxtapse this with the site's response to Hilda, the plus-size pin-up. That is, there was a lot of effusing in that thread over Hilda's body shape, and not a lot of discussion about how (presumably) Hilda was forgotten because such models were unpopular.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:24 PM on September 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Regardless of all that other noise, this photo is amazing.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:31 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Positive Recaptioning from The Fattening

OK, as much as the original captions are preposterously melodramatic (and I'd really be curious to know what her reaction to the photoessay's publication was, especially with the five-year gap between when she consented* to have most of the pictures taken and the eventual release date) ...man, that "recaptioning" reads like someone's transparent wish-fulfillment fanfic.

*Since we're all bringing assumptions to the table, I'm going to assume she went about the whole thing with equanimity.
posted by psoas at 8:31 PM on September 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Regardless of all that other noise, this photo is amazing.

I've been staring at that photo for awhile now and for the life of me I cannot figure out what she is doing or how that thing she's on is supposed to work.
posted by pandalicious at 8:54 PM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've been staring at that photo for awhile now and for the life of me I cannot figure out what she is doing or how that thing she's on is supposed to work.

I think it's a primitive rowing machine. If she leans forward and holds onto those handles, the wheel will roll back on the plank.
posted by dobbs at 8:58 PM on September 29, 2013


might juxtapse this with the site's response to Hilda, the plus-size pin-up. That is, there was a lot of effusing in that thread over Hilda's body shape, and not a lot of discussion about how (presumably) Hilda was forgotten because such models were unpopular.

Hilda was different - she was drawn as a women of quirky confidence by a man who surely loved her, and she was a pinup girl, whose beauty was meant to be admired, not shamed. Also Hilda wasn't a real person after all. This article is clearly just shaming the woman under the pretense of doing a serious health news article. No confidence fun love etc.
posted by sweetkid at 9:01 PM on September 29, 2013


Also interesting to me are the weight loss messages present in some of the advertising in that issue:

She found new life when she lost 65 pounds with Ann Delafield's REDUCING PLAN

Ballantine Beer watches your belt-line... with fewer calories than any other leading beer

Protein at breakfast is new key to weight control [...] Oats control your weight!

Borden's Cottage Cheese is low in calories, but won't leave you with that "starved" feeling after a little while.

Everywhere, from midriff to thigh - you're sleeked in, patted smooth.

Meanwhile, competing ads exhort the virtues of processed foods and sugary snacks: Chef Boyardee for quick dinners, the wish to be able to eat all six flavors of Jello at once, Aunt Jemima pancakes as the basis for easy Lenten meals, family sizes of ice cream and 7-up, the "wonderful eating" that is Rice Krispies, "sparkling with energy" Canada Dry ginger ale, more Lenten meal ideas from Appian Way Pizza Pie Mix, and some Tums to wash it all down. (I didn't even bother mentioning all the alcohol and cigarette ads; I'd be here all night.)

Finally, little Arabella Churchill (Winston's granddaughter) has tea-time sandwiches, cookies, milk, and fruit and "sigh[s] 'Ooh, I'm well-fed'" before having her evening weigh-in.
posted by Aster at 9:12 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


The sheer volume of sexism & racism & lies ("harmless to health filter cigarettes!") in those ads is just shocking. Not, like, one or two scattered examples but just a barrage of awfulness.
posted by dontjumplarry at 9:36 PM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some fantastic photography. So there is that, at least.
posted by chunking express at 9:38 PM on September 29, 2013


Well, remember, sugar was promoted as a health food until the mid-70s so while we chortle at those poor rubes not even knowing what they were doing, I often wonder what people on Metafilter in 30 years or so will be chortling at that's accepted as healthy and a great idea today.

Hell, eggs just in my lifetime have wobbled between "You may as well take strychnine" and "NATURE'S PERFECT FOOD" several times. Likewise, red meat was basically eating cancer seeds until the Atkins diet and low-carb caught on and now the common wisdom is you're better off cutting carbs and eating a ton of protein.

And I can tell you as a fat guy shedding weight, literally every single person has excellent broscience-class advice about how everything I am doing is wrong and I should totally do it their way, even if they're substantially heavier than me and are not actually losing weight.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:39 PM on September 29, 2013 [18 favorites]


northernish: "Positive Recaptioning from The Fattening"

Well, to borrow a phrase from a friend, as one of the penii, I had to figure out what a mermaid skirt was. Well, now I know... And knowing is half the battle. (25% of the rest of the battle is blue lasers, and the remainder is red laser).

So I learned something new today AND made a terrible joke. SUCCESS!
posted by Samizdata at 10:18 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


And, I think she would have been pretty cute if she didn't look like someone exploded a kitten in front of her each pic. Of course, I also say a happy woman is the one hottest forms of that woman.
posted by Samizdata at 10:24 PM on September 29, 2013


For example, the notion that Marilyn Monroe was a size 16 (which is apparently an urban myth)

The dress she wore in the 7 year itch was too small to fit on a size 2 (modern size) mannequin. A lot of her other dresses were similarly sized. Monroe's waist was 22 inches while the average waist size for a woman today is something like 34 inches. So that's a really sizable difference.
posted by Justinian at 11:32 PM on September 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, remember, sugar was promoted as a health food until the mid-70s

Given the buzz about certain sodas using cane sugar instead of corn syrup, you could be forgiven for believing this trend lasted until the past couple of years.
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:47 AM on September 30, 2013


Hell, eggs just in my lifetime have wobbled between "You may as well take strychnine" and "NATURE'S PERFECT FOOD" several times. Likewise, red meat was basically eating cancer seeds until the Atkins diet and low-carb caught on and now the common wisdom is you're better off cutting carbs and eating a ton of protein.

Fat, not protein. Low-carb dieting depends on raising your fat intake.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:48 AM on September 30, 2013


I wonder what the gap was between the invention of the printing press and the first Scary Social Trend story.

Aristophanes.
posted by dhartung at 1:40 AM on September 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Samizdata: "And, I think she would have been pretty cute if she didn't look like someone exploded a kitten in front of her each pic. Of course, I also say a happy woman is the one hottest forms of that woman."

one of the hottest forms, even.
posted by Samizdata at 2:50 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought she was beautiful.
posted by ukdanae at 3:00 AM on September 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I was very surprised by how not obese she is by modern day standards. Which, without shaming anyone, seems to me that we are the ridiculous ones.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:31 AM on September 30, 2013


Fat, not protein. Low-carb dieting depends on raising your fat intake.

Kinda. Mostly, it's reducing dietary carbohydrates. It was discovered while putting epilleptic kids on a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet, which showed some promise as a cure for epillepsy... they were taken off it when their weight crashed. While increasing fat intake can jump-start keratosis, a high protein, moderate fat, low carbohydrate diet is more sustainable ongoing.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:36 AM on September 30, 2013


The sheer volume of sexism & racism & lies ("harmless to health filter cigarettes!") in those ads is just shocking.

It's ok though - ads today are nothing like that. They just lie about different things.
posted by sneebler at 6:37 AM on September 30, 2013


Wow, even in 1954 they knew that exercise alone wasn't enough to lose weight.
posted by Theta States at 6:48 AM on September 30, 2013


So, instead of wallowing in her fatness or accepting it she change her diet, exercises and looses weight. Amazing that still works today.
posted by thylacine at 6:49 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, instead of wallowing in her fatness or accepting it she change her diet, exercises and looses weight. Amazing that still works today.

No, it doesn't. We didn't see a follow-up three to five years later, which is about when all of the weight comes roaring back, and then some, for the typical dieter. If there were any simple formulas or proven cures, there would be no obesity epidemic.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:58 AM on September 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, how dare people wallow in their fatness like great happy hippos? How dare they accept it like their body is their own to accept or strive to modify as they please?

How very dare they.
posted by lydhre at 6:59 AM on September 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


Hmm. I don't think that there is an obesity epidemic because "changing ones diet and exercising doesn't work". I think it's because most people either don't do those things, or start and don't stick with it. Because it's hard.

Losing weight, and keeping it off, is really simple in theory. It's just a whole different kettle of fish in real life.

Fun fact: I'm currently doing a weight loss diet that consists of eating normally, but sensibly, one day and then eating nothing but wholegrain bread the second day, then a normal day again, and so on.
Yes, tons of carbs. Is it working? Yes it is.

Oh, and count me among those who find Dorothy beautiful.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:39 AM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a fat person, I take comfort in this exchange from the 1973 Woody Allen movie, Sleeper.

Dr. Melik: This morning for breakfast he requested something called "wheat germ, organic honey and tiger's milk."

Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.

Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?

Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.

Dr. Melik: Incredible.


What is one to believe?

Also, I thought Dorothy had a great figure!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:31 AM on September 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, I think I just lost about 40 minutes to that issue of Life. The Ads!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:43 AM on September 30, 2013


Is it working? Yes it is.

For now.

Patient compliance over the lifetime of the patient is the insurmountable hurdle in weight loss treatments. Some very intelligent, disciplined and motivated people have issues with compliance.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:02 AM on September 30, 2013


Also things like injury and illness can be a major setback for a lot of people when losing and/or maintaining weight.
posted by sweetkid at 9:12 AM on September 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Patient compliance over the lifetime of the patient is the insurmountable hurdle in weight loss treatments.

This is a diet to get it off, not to keep it off. Keeping it off will have to happen as a result of permanent changes. And yes, that's hard. No reason for me not to try it.

I rode around the Sahara. That was hard, too. I still managed to do it. Hard things are possible sometimes.

Insurmountable? We'll see. But thank you for the motivation. Not.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:15 AM on September 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Don't sweat the haters, Too-Ticky.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:21 AM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


For example, the notion that Marilyn Monroe was a size 16 (which is apparently an urban myth).

Mostly this comes from the US sizing system having changed, more than once, since Monroe's day. It can be a bit of a shock to people who aren't interested in vintage clothing or sewing patterns, but a 16 in the 1950s would be about equivalent to a 6 or 8 now--hard to say exactly, because due to different undergarment preferences, clothing would have a smaller waist compared to the bust than in modern clothing.

Monroe at her largest (around Some Like It Hot) was still only a modern 6-8 though, and through most of her career she was more like a 2-4 in modern sizing. It's that super-tiny waist that throws it all off, making her bust and hips seem extravagantly voluptuous.

Anyway, as for this thread, I thought Dorothy was adorable, just as she was.
posted by padraigin at 9:21 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


You didn't come here for motivation. You came to show that losing weight was easy, because you're losing weight in the initial stages of a fad diet. I've been there. Many times.

Losing weight is a serious undertaking, with a lot of perils, pitfalls and roadblocks, some of which will only manifest themselves years after you start. I wish you well, but please don't hold yourself up as a model of how obesity is some sort of solved problem.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:22 AM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Monroe at her largest (around Some Like It Hot) was still only a modern 6-8 though, and through most of her career she was more like a 2-4 in modern sizing. It's that super-tiny waist that throws it all off, making her bust and hips seem extravagantly voluptuous.

Which, interestingly, is exactly what I thought about Dorothy--a 31 inch waist is TINY on a 5'5" frame, especially when that frame is in the neighborhood of 160-200 lbs. We perceive body types very differently in relation to weight, and 200 lbs on a seriously voluptuous hourglass looks different from 200 lbs on a very tall, very straight figure, and again from a shorter, more pear-shaped figure.

Which is why nobody ever knows what g-d size they are in women's clothing because much of it is made to fit ideally on only the tall, straight figure, and nothing else.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:25 AM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


You came to show that losing weight was easy
I said, and believe, no such thing. In fact I said quite the opposite: that it's hard. I do not consider obesity to be a solved problem.

I wrote about the diet because it goes against the currently believed ideas that carbs make you fat. That's all.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:26 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


'hard' is getting past our own -- what we called in the '70's -- our own hang ups. Once that non-trivial issue is resolved the rest is straightforward induction of a net-caloric-deficit.
posted by mikelieman at 9:32 AM on September 30, 2013


entropicamericana: Don't sweat the haters

Very well, but how about hating the sweaters?
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:33 AM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I couldn't help noticing that her "new improved" weight of 155 would probably be considered "overweight" by some today.

It's funny, I had just the opposite reaction; that her original size, which seems to be portrayed in the article as some kind of emergency, is well within my conception of normal range.
posted by escabeche at 5:46 PM on September 29 [15 favorites +] [!]

'Normal' as in 'the norm' (meaning 'not unusual') or 'normal' as in 'not a problem/healthy weight range'?

I'm genuinely curious.
posted by Salamander at 9:42 AM on September 30, 2013


A 31 inch waist is a size 12(ish) these days. And that (mostly) corresponds to a European size 40.

Dorothy must have been quite muscular. I'm 5'6", and when I weighed 197lbs I was a size 16 with a 34 inch waist. Now I weigh 160lbs, my waist is 30 inches, and I'm a size 10. And I'm pretty muscular too.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:50 AM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


The word voluptuous really needs to come back in fasion.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:06 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


'Normal' as in 'the norm' (meaning 'not unusual') or 'normal' as in 'not a problem/healthy weight range'?

Since a couple people have said (surprisingly to me) the opposite, to me she appeared obviously and significantly overweight. I don't see how anyone could argue otherwise without a really skewed view of what constitutes a normal -- in the healthy sense rather than the not-unsual sense -- weight range.
posted by Justinian at 11:35 AM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Positive Recaptioning from The Fattening

I thought these were awesome and hilarious.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:48 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since a couple people have said (surprisingly to me) the opposite, to me she appeared obviously and significantly overweight.

When I was a child, someone in my parents' friends' circle was a woman who was easily about 450-500 pounds, and probably easily about 50-60 inches around the waist (and the hips and the bust as well). That is what I always think of when someone says someone else is "obviously overweight."

Dorothy did not look like that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:50 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some of the pictures are extremely unflattering and make her look as big as possible. Like the first one.

Not that big is bad but I think anyone wouldn't be thinking they looked to best advantage from an an under-the-butt shadowy bathing suit shot.
posted by sweetkid at 11:52 AM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]



-I couldn't help noticing that her "new improved" weight of 155 would probably be considered "overweight" by some today.

--It's funny, I had just the opposite reaction; that her original size, which seems to be portrayed in the article as some kind of emergency, is well within my conception of normal range.


I think you're both right.

Miss America candidates, for example, have gotten statistically taller and thinner over the years. Models and actresses, and those who aspire to look like them, are thinner, leaner, and wear less shapewear.

Everyday folk have statistically trended the other way.

We're very good at polarizing in the U.S. We can have have two Americas on pretty much any issue you put in front of us. And we're so good at it that we can other everybody out of the comfortable middle ground before you can say "E pluribus unum."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:45 PM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Justinian: yep, my thoughts were the same as yours. Interesting.
posted by Salamander at 1:10 PM on September 30, 2013


Small aside, regarding the discussion of Dorothy's surprisingly small waist: in the picture where she is measuring herself, I believe she is wearing foundation garments -- it looks that way to me. She's definitely wearing a bra, at least, and in that period, one usually also wore a girdle and nylons as well. This can suck in your waist by a few inches, so her natural waistline was probably somewhat larger.

She's quite lovely, though. What struck me, in looking through the pictures, is how drastically our visual image of obesity has changed. Passing this woman on the street today, I would consider her quite averagely sized.
posted by artemisia at 2:39 PM on September 30, 2013


This fat woman says: TURNSTILES ARE INDEED EVIL. Thank you for bringing awareness to this important issue, LIFE magazine!

(Kind of not even sarcastic. Turnstiles really are evil.)
posted by E. Whitehall at 3:29 PM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Her shoes in the Tunnel of Love picture look like they're probably very cute.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:57 PM on September 30, 2013


"And how about Marla Hooch? What a hitter!"

I like how working out in the 50's included wood paneling and dentist jackets.

The double standard there too apparently. For guys if you didn't have a huge gut in the 50's you were in super shape.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:02 PM on September 30, 2013


I didn't notice at first that the real reason for Dorothy's weight loss was to meet a (ridiculous) weight requirement to get hired as a nurse; dating was a secondary concern for her, if even that. So not only does the Life picture essay relate a sexist and overwrought narrative, but also it relates the wrong one. Sheesh.

My late mother actually became a nurse right around the same time as this; I wonder whether she had to meet a ridiculous "nursing weight" requirement, too ... based on pictures, I know she was a lot thinner when practicing nursing in the '50s and '60s than she had been as a high school cheerleader.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 6:24 PM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I didn't notice that either. Nursing weight requirement, how gross.
posted by sweetkid at 6:56 PM on September 30, 2013


My late mother actually became a nurse right around the same time as this; I wonder whether she had to meet a ridiculous "nursing weight" requirement, too

My mother had to stay within a weight limit to keep her job at the phone company in the late 1960's.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:22 PM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


what? Why on earth would anyone working at a phone company need a weight limit? What did every job have a weight limit for women pre 70s?
posted by sweetkid at 7:27 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


what? Why on earth would anyone working at a phone company need a weight limit?

Presenting: one of the reasons why feminism happened.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:33 PM on September 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


yea that was more a "wtf world is crazy" question mark not an "explain this to me" question mark.
posted by sweetkid at 7:37 PM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Damn. She's really lovely. I wonder what it was like for her to be the subject of the photos. And I wonder what happened to her afterwards.
posted by bunderful at 7:41 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Which is why nobody ever knows what g-d size they are in women's clothing because much of it is made to fit ideally on only the tall, straight figure, and nothing else

Harumph. As a tall woman, I disagree. It's difficult to find shirts that don't expose my middle every time I raise my arms the slightest bit. Standard-size clothes might be made for straight figures, but definitely not for the tall.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:04 PM on October 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


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