Weighing Things Up

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It always happens at this time of year. Following the conspicuous calorific consumption of Christmas, the experts are out in force, in print, online and on-air, urging us to “do the right thing”. Countless column-inches are devoted to their cause, as we are bombarded with their “effective plans” and “easy-to-follow guides”. We are encouraged with headlines convincing us that we should do such things as “Embrace a New You for the New Year”. There are those of us who, feeling weighed down by guilt and festive indulgence, heed their well-meaning advice, as we brave the scales, take an anxious glance at those tell-tale figures, and promise that we will indeed “do better”. Alternatively, we might rebelliously resist, preferring to embrace – and enjoy - life as our comfortable old selves despite the passing of another year! Yes, dear reader, the season is now upon us for healthy eating, diets, fitness and, of course, those layers of luminous Lycra.

 Judging by what I’ve heard and read, “getting fit” and “in shape” seems to be one of this year's most popular resolutions. Now, I realise that we are only a fortnight into 2018, but how is your new year shaping up? Is your health halo shining or are you forsaking fitness in pursuit of gastronomic glory? Are you tucking into hearty or meagre portions? Do you begin each day with a full English breakfast or a modest bowl of muesli? Perhaps you might be participating in various initiatives such as Dry January or Veganuary. I'm pleased to report that even though some of us in the Evergreen and This England office try to keep fit - by walking, running, or going to the gym - we try not to be too virtuous and we can always make room for any cakes or chocolates that come past our desks during the working day!

 Sweet treats are the subject of an article in Evergreen's spring issue (click here to order), which recalls a wonderful assortment of confectionery and ice creams from yesteryear. From Bazooka bubble gum and Cough Candy Twists to Strawberry Mivvy and Mackintosh's Weekend, we guarantee that it will definitely get your mouth watering!

 We tend to assume that the focus on diets and fitness is a recent thing, but I was fascinated to discover that this is not the case. Apparently the first serious dieter was a gentleman by the name of William Banting (1797- 1878) who was an eminent funeral director in London. (Indeed, the family firm in St. James's Street, held a royal warrant.) By the age of 65, William was extremely overweight (14½ stone and 5 foot 5 inches in height), unable to bend down to tie his shoelaces, repeatedly out of breath, and he had to descend the stairs backwards. He tried to shift the stubborn stones by exercising, but all to no avail. In desperation he consulted Dr. William Harvey at his practice in Soho Square. Harvey advised a diet that was high in protein, but told his patient to cut down on sweet and starchy carbohydrates including bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer and potatoes. Banting followed the doctor's advice and, within 12 months, he had lost more than three stone. He was so impressed that in 1863 he published a leaflet, detailing his experiences and diet entitled "Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public". It proved extremely popular, with many people following his example, which gave rise to the word "banting", and has even provided the basis for some modern diets. So, if your new-year diet and fitness regime is already flagging, don't despair, just be inspired by the success of Mr. Banting!

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