The pressure for people to lose weight is timeless, but the methods people use to do it vary from decade to decade and from the reasonable to the ridiculous. Here are three of my favorite methods for weight-loss from the decade that gave us Twiggy, sauna suits, and amphetamine fetishism.
The sleep cure
This is a favorite of mine because it plays a minor part of the plot of one of my favorite novels, Valley of the Dolls. The idea behind the treatment is that you’re given drugs to sedate you into a deep sleep that lasts a week, during which time you’re given enough food to sustain you but not enough to cause you to gain weight. At the end of the week you’re meant to awake refreshed and a little bit lighter. In Valley of the Dolls, Jennifer North undergoes the sleep cure and loses 12 pounds over the course of 8 days.
The Trim Twist
Do you like dancing? Do you want to lose weight? You might think you can simply combine your love of dance with your desire to shed a few pounds but you’d be wrong! This is the 1960s and you have to wear a cute outfit, do your hair, and use a special piece of exercise equipment to do the twist. Trust us, you need this 10″x9″ piece of pastel styrene or you won’t get anything done.
This is a bit of a cheat because diet food isn’t limited to the 1960s, but the decade did have an influx of specially marketed diet food that I find quite interesting. For example, sacharine, an artificial sweetener discovered in the 1800s, began showing up in everything during this time, particularly diet soft drinks. The forerunner of the SlimFast shake, known as the Metrecal Diet Shake, also hit the market in the early 1960s and in Betty Friedan’s 1963 book The Feminine Mystique she notes that “[women] ate a chalk called Metrecal, instead of food, to shrink to the size of thin young models.” Sounds delicious.