Sunday, September 4, 2011

September 27, 1864 --- The Greatest Loser

Banting is alive. At the height of his eponymous diet mania, William Banting denies that he is seriously ill or, worse, dead.

A diminutive London undertaker in his mid-sixties, Banting had lost some fifty pounds (he had weighed over 200) by eliminating all sugar and carbohydrates (butter, milk, potatoes, beer, etc.) and eating only meat, fish and dry toast. For the first time in years he could tie his shoes and no longer "puffed and blowed in a way that was very unseemly and disagreeable."

Banting claimed anyone willing to follow his lead could expect a weight loss of as much as 8 pounds in 48 hours. His published pamphlet, A Letter on Corpulence, had gone into several editions and the expression "I'm banting," came to mean "I'm dieting" and the verb "to bant" entered (and remains in) the Oxford English Dictionary.

But the diet had come under fire from the medical community and rumors about his health are rife. In a letter printed in today's Times, Banting declares: "Many reports have been circulated most painful and distressing
to me ... of my illness from adopting the system, and of my death in consequence; but all such reports are utterly false." He suggests that his many medical critics harbor "mercenary" motives. Admitting "I do not possess a grain of knowledge of the physiological reasons for the extraordinary results of the system," he challenges the scientific community to do more research, and less complaining, "to work out the problem hitherto rather slighted and overlooked."

As would be expected, Punch had much fun at Mr. Banting's expense.
Some glutton has stated that brave Mr. Banting
Himself has succumbed to the system he taught.
'Tis false, and he lives, neither puffing nor panting,
But down to a hundred and fifty pounds brought.

Banting survived another fourteen years. He passed away in 1878 at the age of 82.

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