Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Byron the Proto-Celebrity Dieter?

Here's a weird tidbit from an unexpected source:

     Byron's constant battle with creeping pudginess—he inherited his tendency to plumpness from his obese mother, he said—was of never-ending fascination to his fans and critics in Europe and America. And nearly everyone who despaired over how hard it is to lose weight understood his lament that everything he ate turned to fat on his body.
     Edward John Trelawny, a fierce competitor of Byron's, wrote, "Byron had not damaged his body by strong drinks, but his terror of getting fat was so great that he reduced his diet to the point of absolute starvation. He said everything he swallowed was instantly converted into tallow and deposited on his ribs." Byron, he added, "was always hungry," and when he gave in and ate, he instantly gained weight.
     Byron's diets were legendary—one raisin and a glass of brandy a day, or a mess of greens doused in vinegar. He'd stave off hunger pangs with tobacco and green tea. And, over and over again, he resorted to drinking vinegar.
     Historian Lois Banner notes, "The popularity of drinking vinegar to lose weight can be traced directly to Byron, whose most popular regimen, according to some accounts, was to subsist for some days on vinegar and water."

From Gina Kolata, Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss—and the Myths and Realities of Dieting (2007).


Anne Camille said...

More interesting than his obsession was that others were fascinated by his weight and dieting. I've liked much of what I've read of Kolata's writing. I'll be interested in hearing more about this book.

Anonymous said...

Luckily, his poems have survived better than his strange diet! I'm not surprised to see people of his time interested in his dieting. After all, during 19C, people scrutinized the skull and brain of famous dead people to try and understand where their talents came from!

Melwyk said...

It's hard to think of Byron struggling with normal things like weight. Not really part of the image I have of him!

Danielle said...

Ugh--vinegar. That would probably ruin your appetite if you drank enough of it. I've also read about his constant dieting. In the end he did turn fat and paunchy didn't he. He must have been the first of the popular celebrities that everyone has to know everything about. Curious to think--I guess some human traits haven't changed.

Jane said...

My first thought when I read about his drinking vinegar was, you have got to be kidding. But wacky diet theories abound in every age. Thanks for the interesting post.

LK said...

Oh, dear, I can relate to poor old Byron.

Wow, didn't know Gina Kolata wrote a book about diets! I loved her book on Flu!

Stefanie said...

All that and he didn't even have to worry about unflattering photos in People magazine! The idea of drinking vinegar and water makes me gag. But I suppose people today do some just as crazy things.