A-Banting We Will Go

William Banting was huffing and puffing by the time he reached the top of the first flight of stairs, or so the story goes. He said to himself, “I need to lose some weight.”

He was probably right about that.

At five feet five inches, Banting was not a tall man—but in his mid-60s he weighed in at about 200 pounds.

He went to various doctors and tried various cures, but he eventually hit on a diet that actually worked for him. He lost weight at the rate of about a pound a week until he got down to 167 pounds.

So delighted was he with the success of his diet that he wrote a pamphlet about it, “Letter on Corpulence: Addressed to the Public,” and printed a thousand copies, which he distributed free. It proved to be so popular that he kept reprinting it, though charging enough to cover the cost for the second printing, and eventually a bit more.

The  public ate it up, so to speak. “Banting” became synonymous with dieting, and to “bant” was, in the late 19th century and beyond, what people did to lose weight.

Here is Mr. Banting's diet:

"For breakfast, I take four or five ounces of beef, mutton, kidneys, broiled fish, bacon, or cold meat of any kind except pork; a large cup of tea (without milk or sugar); a … biscuit, or one ounce 

of dry toast. 

"For dinner, five or six ounces of any fish except salmon, any meat except pork, any vegetable except potato, one ounce of dry toast

, fruit out of a pudding [i.e., pastry], any kind of poultry or game, and two or three glasses of good claret, sherry, or Madeira —Champagne, Port and Beer are forbidden. 

"For tea, Two or three ounces of fruit, a rusk or two, and a cup of tea without milk or sugar. 

"For supper, Three or four ounces of meat or fish, similar to dinner, with a glass or two of claret. 

"For nightcap, if required, A tumbler of grog (gin, whisky, or brandy without sugar) or a glass or two of claret or sherry."


This popular diet from the 1860s bears a distinct resemblance to the Drinking Man’s Diet, a popular diet from the 1960s, and more than a slight resemblance to the Atkins diet, with its avoidance of carbohydrates.

As diets go, it is no doubt healthier than Beau Brummel’s prescription of vinegar and bread. And it is certainly healthier that the diet the Austro-Hungarian Empress Elisabeth favored. Any time she went over what she considered her ideal weight, she simply stopped eating. Completely.

She was very beautiful, but just a bit strange.

The picture of Mr. Banting adorned the cover of his pamphlet and shows him after he lost weight.


Sounds doable!

She just stopped eating? Yikes. The (crazy) willpower involved in that does not exist in my world. Too many scrumptious foods to tempt the soul. I do find Banting's diet interesting though - and doable.

Just one thing - Does "dinner" in this context mean lunch?

Yes, dinner was the meal in

Yes, dinner was the meal in the middle of the day. I always find it hard to remember that.

Grog and mutton?

It's likely they sell neither of these two things at Stop n Shop, though. I can't imagine what he ate before he decided to work with this menu. I hope it's okay if I stick with less pop-tarts and more salad.

Lil, what is a rusk?

Thanks for the fun insight story.

You'll have to mix your own

You'll have to mix your own grog, I'm afraid. You could probably find mutton online, though I don't know why you would bother.
Don't you remember rusks? They're those hard twice-baked chunks of bread that people give—or used to give—to teething babies.

This man sounds very bright.

This man sounds very bright. He figured out what worked and that was very little carbs.
The diet doesn't seem to be much of a hardship. He certainly didn't curtail his alcoholic beverages.

I do wonder what size glass

I do wonder what size glass he was talking about—the old 4-ounce wine glass or the 12- to 16-ounce glasses that are fashionable these days!

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