If the phrase, “To Bant,” means nothing to you, don’t be to surprised, it’s not very likely to mean anything to anybody except foodie geeks like myself but once you understand what the word means you will begin to understand a truism of the world of health and fitness that most people fail to realise. Namely that there is nothing new in the world of dieting. Although with all the diet news and views flying about the place you’d never know it.
Pick up any health and fitness magazine, flick through any newspaper, surf the internet, or just turn on your TV and I can pretty much guarantee that before long you will come in contact with lots of adds selling you the very latest in weight loss pills, potions or new cutting edge diets; all of which will have you as lean as a ferret and as jacked as a leopard hanging from a tree in less time than it takes you to boil up some curried cabbage soup, (hats off to the lads who managed to market that particular one). But in truth, once you understand the basics of eating good, whole real foods, learn what and how the different macro nutrients effect and fuel you body and get to grips with eating the right sort of volumes of food for your goals and lifestyle, the rest is just fluff at best. You see there really are only a few basic concepts in the world of dieting that have any sort of effect and once you get to grips with them… well you will finally see there really is nothing new in dieting.
Roll in, Banting, one of these most basic of dieting concepts. Or rather, Mr. William Banting, to be precise.
In 1869, William Banting launched what is possible the first ever recorded fad diet. He didn’t create the diet and it wasn’t a “fad,” in the sense that it didn’t work, it most defiantly did work. I use the word “Fad,” purely in the sense that Banting wrote about it, popularised it, and even defended it against the attack of other writers in the papers of his times and even spoke of his before and afters, just like any modern fad diet ambassador would. And of course the most important part for any fad, or craze diet… the world went mad for it.
In 1869 William Banting was over weight. We do no know his exact weight other than he was over 200 lb. Not huge as we would know it, but he claimed that he could not tie his own shoe laces, so perhaps he was over 200 lb and closing in on 300 lb or perhaps he was very short. Either way he was not a happy chap and endeavoured to shed his excess baggage by the usual means; he exercised, (rowing seem to have been a favourite), and he reduced his food intake. But this wasn’t doing the job for Banting, in fact he claimed he just felt tired all time and became, Beset of Boils, (lovely).
He sought help from many doctors with little success until that was he encountered Dr. William Harvey. Harvey was recently returned from Paris where he had attended lectures by the French physiologist Dr. Claude Bernard. Harvey had heard Bernard talk of how diabetics secreted large amounts of sugars such as glucose from the liver into the blood and how as well as the diabetics body’s inability to hold sugars it also had a great deal of trouble holding weight. Harvey also knew that certain animals were feed excess sugars in their foods to help fatten them up. So he postulated that sugars may be the greater cause of people gaining weight and therefore a diet high in proteins and fats, but low in Starches and sugars might cause the body to shed fat. So he gave this advice to William Banting.
Banting’s diet was of course a low carb diet, and it looked a lot like any modern low carb diet, with the exception that he was allowed rather more alcohol than a more modern plan might encourage.
Banting’s diet consisted of 3 meals a day of Meat, fish or game, with a side of 1 or 2 ounces of stale toast, or boiled fruit. He was also allowed 5 glasses of wine per day, 1 cordial and a tumbler of whiskey, gin or brandy in the evening. Well they did have to keep the damn thing civilised after all. Even still,William Banting lost 35 lb over the following 9 months. As well as dropping the weight Banting also reported to have not felt better in 26 years, and that all his other bodily functions and afflictions, to which he had been so negatively affected by when over weight, had become a thing of the past.
In fact so pleased was Baniting with his success that he wrote a 16 page pamphlet on his dieting experience, called, “Letter on Corpulence,” and had it published. His pamphlet was soon a best seller in the United States, France, Austria and Germany and Banting’s name became synonymous with his low carb diet plan. The diet became known as Bantingism, and the term to “Bant,” entered the lexicon of the masses. People who wanted to lose weight Banted. Scandalous Newspapers articles appeared recommending that certain high standing overweight people of society could do with a good, “Bant.” The emperor of France was said to have been, “Banting,” to control his weight.
All William Banting had wanted was to let others know how they could successfully lose weight but he had inadvertently created a diet Craze and like all such people even now, he took quite a bit of flack for his protestations. One paper had a go at him, “because his diet was Old News.” All Banting could say to this was, he was sure it probably was “old news,” to them but it had been new news to him.
So it seems that even our fist fad diet was old news to some people at the time. For us now, I suppose the word Atkins has come to represent low carb eating in the same way that Banting did for people 150 years ago.
So always remember…when you see all those shiny new adds for the latest and the greatest new food pill, potion or plan., all you really need to do is…
Learn the basics of food,
Eat real food where you can,
Learn to control your food volume
and never forget… there is nothing new in dieting.