The Feeding Doctor on Pinterest

Musings on Taft’s “modern” diet

Posted by on Oct 15, 2013 in Blog Posts | 3 comments

While in my hotel room, I read this article on President Taft’s modern diet…

Take a moment to read it. Listen to the language used, and the message it sends.  Are you surprised by the outcome, or the conclusion? (My comments in italics below…)


  • “The physician spelled out exactly what Taft should eat and at what time of day. The diet included lots of lean meat, fish and vegetables without butter and gluten (wheat) biscuits, which Taft ordered from a bakery in London, Levine says. There was a list of forbidden (sugar, sweets) and permitted foods (vegetables, lean meat).”
  • “His weight-loss plan “seems quite similar to what we would call a low-carb diet, but people didn’t even talk about carbs at that time,” Levine says.”

Neat! Low carb diets back in the goode olde dayse…So ahead of their time!

  • “The interesting aspect of this paper “is how much the behavioral techniques at the time are similar to today’s techniques. The emphasis on self monitoring is there. We advise daily weighing, and food diaries are a mainstay now,” Ryan says.”

Cool! That worked so well for Taft, right? He lost 60 pounds!

  • He’s compliant: “you can tell from the completeness of his self-recorded weights that Taft was an adherent patient, she says. “The doctor is doing his part with frequent visits, albeit by mail, and encouragement, not scolding.”
  • Until he’s not...”by the time, Taft was inaugurated as president in 1909, his weight was much higher (354 pounds) than his starting weight on the diet (314 pounds)”

Shocker, research since Taft’s time tells us that most people who diet to lose weight eventually end up heavier.

  • No willpower!:“Ryan says Taft probably regained his weight because he went back to his old eating habits and lifestyle.”

Not biology or physiology or psychology at play here at all, no… How can these modern day clinicians and doctors ignore decades of research?

  • “People today may be surprised that patients were seeking care for obesity as early as the beginning of the 20th century.”

Um, what surprises me is that mainstream medicine seems to have nothing different  to offer now, and that we continue to do the same thing over and over again that hasn’t worked. (Isn’t that Einstein’s definition of insanity paraphrased?)

“Levine says this article illustrates the long-standing problem of patients’ not sticking with a plan, something that still frustrates doctors, dietitians and nutritionists today, she says.”

Wow. That’s not what my take-away was. How can we continue this kind of thinking, and poor ‘treatment’ that makes the dieter less, not more healthy? If a lawyer, president of the United States who did everything he could, with every expert and chef and personal trainer couldn’t lose weight (reminds me of modern day Oprah weight saga) how can we still say it’s just about willpower, or adherence… The story is tragic, and inevitable.


added: from the NYT version of this story… About a Johns Hopkins obesity research, “She and others were also struck by Taft’s persistent hunger pangs.”

Surprised, really? Sigh all over again…


Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Tumblr
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. ksol

    I had a friend who told me she was “good” for two years — portion control, etc. She said she was hungry for two solid years. Two. Solid. Years. One night, out with dinner with her husband, she simply burst into tears and said “I can’t do it any more.” When they talk about people going back to bad habits, I think of her. How long do they expect people to remain hungry?

    • katja

      She just needs more willpower… Not. Sad, but I hope she’s feeling better. HAES (health at every size) and focusing on health, wellness, not weight can be really liberating and a gift.
      Maybe cigarettes could help with the hunger pangs? (Sorry, I can’t take this article seriously.)

  2. Jill

    Yes, I was surprised as well — not surprised to see uncritical things coming from newspapers, but surprised to see it coming from Gina Kolata, who wrote a good book on how the studies show that everything she described in Taft’s life is exactly what we would expect from the research (which of course hadn’t been done yet in Taft’s time). I wonder if her editors cut out part of the story? And if not, I wonder why she left that out.


  1. Ludicrously Long List of Links | closetpuritan - […] Musings on Taft’s “modern” diet […]