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A rich feast of a book,
This review is from: Calories and Corsets: A history of dieting over two thousand years (Hardcover)In one of the excellent newspaper reviews for this fine book, it mentioned a new herbal capsule that promised swift and painless weight loss. I bought the book - a paean to common sense (I can't resist saying larded with wit) while also buying the capsules, knowing I was enriching some cynical exploiter of our anxieties about weight combined with low self-control. Knowing Foxcroft's ultimate tip (all things in moderation) is the only, though unpalatable answer, but, like so many, wanting a MIRACLE. Foxcroft herself has said if she'd sold a diet plan rather than pursed their grim and hilarious history, she'd have made a fortune.
But you don't have to be on a diet or to enjoy this exploration of an ancient obsession. Foxcroft's book is, ultimately, a social history told through the attitudes we have had to the body (particularly, but far from exclusively, the female body) since we were able to write about it. Eccentric and venal doctors, entrepreneurs, despairing dieters (Byron trying to maintain the svelte figure appropriate to a poet and seducer; the sad and beautiful proto-Princess of Wales: Elisabeth Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary) faddists, neurotics and those, like me, who are simply vain and idle.
Read it and learn, but you'll also find it useful for interrupting a companion's train of thought with an irresistible morsel. I liked the (American) diet which involves praying fat away. I wish I could add a last verse to Janis Joplin's famous song. "Oh Lord won't you come down my fat's here to take. My friends are all skinny, Just leave me some cake."