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BANTING, William (1797–1878)

Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public. Third edition.
London, Harrison, 1864.

This book is probably the first of the endless stream of bestselling books by physicians on how to lose weight. Banting devised a diet low in saccharine, farinaceous, and oily matter, for the treatment of obesity. This became known as ”Bantingism” or the Banting diet” (Garrison-Morton). Mr Banting, an undertaker in London, was somewhat short in stature (5 feet 5 inches) and in advancing years suffered great personal inconvenience from his increasing fatness. At the age of 65 his weight was 202 pounds. – ”I could not stoop to tie my shoe, nor attend to the little offices humanity requires without considerable pain and difficulty, which only the corpulent can understand; I have compelled to go down stairs slowly backwards, so save the jarr of increased weight upon the ankle and knee joints, and had been obliged to puff and blow with every slight exertion, particularly that of going upstairs.” After having tried ninety Turkish baths, a fashion of the time, Mr Banting succeded in loosing no more than 6 pounds of weight and gave up the plan as worthless. At last he found his sight failing and his hearing greatly inpaired and consulted Mr William Harvey [sic], ”an eminent aural surgeon . . . who unhesitatingly said he believed my ailments were caused principally by corpulence, and prescribed a certain diet . . . The items from which I was advised to abstain as much as possible were: Bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer, and potatoes, which had been the main elements of my existence . . .”. In one year Banting lost 46 pounds of weight. You can take part of Banting’s dietary plan as it appears in his book by clicking on the thumbnail to magnify the image. The delight at being so greatly relieved by so simple means induced Banting to write his pamphlet, which at once gained the attention of the public. The first edition of 1000 copies was issued in 1863 followed by a second one of 1500 copies in the same year. Editions and translations into the main European languages followed in quick succession and ’to bant’ became a household phrase all over Europe. The word ’banting’, slimming by avoiding sugar, starch, and fat, is named after the London undertaker who popularized this diet.

Collation: Pp 50.

Binding: Uncut in original printed wrappers. Spine mended with tape.

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