Weight Loss in the Age of Reason

  • Ken Albala


It is typically assumed that the modern anxiety over obesity is a relatively recent phenomenon, stretching back at best no more than a century. In fact, this concern has a much longer history and the first medical discourses addressing the topic date from the seventeenth century, a time when fat was fashionable. By calling attention to the dangers of excess weight, medical professionals were to a great extent responsible for generating a nascent fear of fat.Their recommendations for weight loss are ultimately to blame for the gradual shift in meaning of the word diet from a general program of health maintenance to a regimen specifically designed to cure excess weight, which was increasingly defined as a pathological state. The various disagreements among different schools of medical thought only intensified the urgency with which they addressed the topic and losing weight eventually became fashionable, as it remains to this day.


Seventeenth Century Ideal Body Size Cold Constitution Drastic Weight Loss Insensible Perspiration 
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© Christopher E. Forth and Ana Carden-Coyne 2005

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  • Ken Albala

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