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Who Started The First-Ever Diet?

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Who Started The First-Ever Diet?

Whether it’s a lifesaving convenience, a bold invention, or a mystery of the cosmos, we don’t often think about how “the first” of anything came to be. But it in our 2020 Farmers’ Almanac, we explore the “fabulous firsts” of many things that are woven into the fabric of our society and lifestyles. Take diets, for example. Did you ever wonder how and why the first diet ever came to be?

The First Diet

It seems as though folks have been fixated on their flab forever. Every year dozens of new diets emerge, all promising to obliterate those excess pounds. But weight loss hasn’t always been an obsession, and there was a time when being on the heavier side was considered a sign of prosperity.

Until British undertaker-to-the-stars William Banting worried about his porky profile, that is.

Banting, who built coffins for royalty, including King George III and IV and Queen Victoria, tried in vain to trim fat from his 5-foot 5-inch, 202-pound frame. He consulted with a surgeon friend and experimented with exercise regimens and starvation. He finally stumbled on a diet that helped him lose almost 50 pounds.

In 1863, Banting published the first diet pamphlet, Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public, which detailed his low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet. Interestingly, the first diet has many similarities to the popular weight loss programs of today, including ketogenic diets. Banting drastically reduced his intake of breads, pastries, dairy, and sugar and replaced them with fish, beef, mutton, and kidneys. He must have enjoyed his daily nip of alcohol because he still drank his share of gin, whiskey, and brandy, and usually enjoyed a glass or two of claret or sherry before bed.

The Banting Diet made him famous, and he happily kept off the weight and lived to a ripe old age of 81. Diet experts are still tweaking the Banting diet to this day.

Like what you read? See more “Fabulous Firsts” in the 2020 Farmers’ Almanac, pages 72-75.

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

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