Calories and Corsets: A history of dieting over two thousand years

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Profile Books, Jan 5, 2012 - Social Science - 320 pages

Today we are urged from all sides to slim down and shape up, to shed a few pounds or lose life-threatening stones. The media's relentless obsession with size may be perceived as a twenty-first-century phenomenon, but as award-winning historian Louise Foxcroft shows, we have been struggling with what to eat, when and how much, ever since the Greeks and the Romans first pinched an inch.

Meticulously researched, surprising and sometimes shocking, Calories and Corsets tells the epic story of our complicated relationship with food, the fashions and fads of body shape, and how cultural beliefs and social norms have changed over time. Combining research from medical journals, letters, articles and the dieting bestsellers we continue to devour (including one by an octogenarian Italian in the sixteenth century), Foxcroft reveals the extreme and often absurd lengths people will go to in order to achieve the perfect body, from eating carbolic soap to chewing every morsel hundreds of times to a tasteless pulp.

This unique and witty history exposes the myths and anxieties that drive today's multi-billion pound dieting industry - and offers a welcome perspective on how we can be healthy and happy in our bodies.


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - EnidaV - LibraryThing

Two thousand years of history and lots of anti-dieting and anti-body-shaming arguments (all admirable and ahead of their time) packed into just over 200 pages. Unfortunately I was interested in the history. This is not a book for history buffs. Read full review


The Price of a Boyish Form
The Origin of the Diet
Luxury and Sloth
Strictly Avoid Frightening Ideas
Advice to Stout People
Fads and Feeding
Keep Your Eyes Open and Your Mouth Shut
Half a Grapefruit and Two Olives
Skeletons and Sweater Girls
Modern Industrial Dieting
Illustration Credits
Acknowledgements Index

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About the author (2012)

Louise Foxcroft has a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge. Her book Hot Flushes, Cold Science: A history of the modern menopause [9781847081711] was winner of the Longman/History Today Prize, 2009. Calories & Corsets: A history of dieting over 2,000 years was shortlisted for a Food Writer's Guild Prize 2013. She has written for the Times, Independent, Observer, Guardian, andLondon Review of Books among others; has appeared on BBC, ITV, RTE and Al Jazeera English; and has contributed to BBC R4 programmes, including The Medicalisation of Normality, Am I Normal?, Woman's Hour, Open Country, You & Yours, Inside Science and The Long View. She is company secretary of Village Underground, a non-profit space for creativity and culture in the heart of East London, and a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

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