Diet Like a President

It’s the holidays, so yes, it’s time to eat and gain weight and not worry about diets and calories and the like. You can grapple with all the results while also swearing off drinking forever during your New Year’s hangover instead.

Still, when the time comes here’s a little motivation: Taft could do it. Yeah, William Howard, that one. The president that is perhaps most widely remembered for being the big fella, for allegedly getting stuck in a bathtub (he probably didn’t), dieted. And his diet might have looked a lot like the ones we go on today.

From the New York Times:

On the advice of his doctor, a famed weight-loss guru and author of popular diet books, he went on a low-fat, low-calorie diet. He avoided snacks. He kept a careful diary of what he ate and weighed himself daily. He hired a personal trainer and rode a horse for exercise. And he wrote his doctor, Nathaniel E. Yorke-Davies, with updates on his progress, often twice a week.

In a way, he was ahead of his time. Obesity became a medical issue by the middle of the 20th century, around the time the term “obesity” rather than “corpulence” came into vogue, said Abigail C. Saguy, a sociologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who specializes in the study of obesity. Taft’s story shows that “at least in some cases, corpulence was already treated as a medical problem early in the century,” she added.

Like many dieters today, Taft, 6 feet 2 inches tall, lost weight and regained it, fluctuating from more than 350 to 255 pounds. He was 48 when he first contacted Dr. Yorke-Davies, and spent the remaining 25 years of his life corresponding with the doctor and consulting other physicians in a quest to control his weight.

Doctors today would most likely offer Taft weight-loss surgery — which could have a big effect on weight — or drugs, which have a small effect at best. But the diet he was advised to follow would be largely unchanged, Dr. Allison said.

Taft died at 280 pounds in 1930, 17 years after the end of his term. He was a solid 72 years old.

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons