History and Benefits of Famous Diets Counting Calories

About the history and benefits of Dr. Peters original counting calories diet plan.


Counting Kal'-o-ries

The Head Woman: In 1918, when Lulu Hunt Peters condensed the state of the art of slenderizing in her best-selling book Diet and Health, vitamins were known as vitamines because they were thought to be amine compounds (some are not), and readers had to be taught the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word: kal'-o-ri. An M.D. from the University of California (1909), Dr. Peters was the first woman to intern at Los Angeles County General Hospital. She became chairman of the public health committee of the state Federation of Women's Clubs, wrote a syndicated daily health feature, and spent two years in the Balkans working for the Red Cross. As a woman with a chronic weight problem herself ("my idea of heaven is place with me and mine on a cloud of whipped cream"), she was naturally interested in diet. Rejecting such contemporary fads as a baked potato and skim milk three times daily, she put together a balanced diet with a mixture of common sense and good humor. Dr. Peters died in 1930, but her book outlived her, going into its 55th edition in 1939.

Overview: The calorie has been around since the 18th century as a unit for measuring heat and energy, but only in this century has it achieved widespread currency as a measure of weight control. Dr. Peters explained that in order to maintain your weight you need to consume 15 calories per pound per day (more if you are unusually active); if your intake is less than that, you will lose weight; if more, you will gain. Suggesting a diet of 1,200 calories a day, she provided menus with caloric equivalents "for those who do not have the desire to compute them." She favored a diet containing 10% to 15% of its calories in the form of protein, with 25% to 30% fats and 60% to 65% carbohydrates as fuel foods. You may eat what you want, provided you count your calories.

Begin your diet with a one-day water fast, Dr. Peters recommended, to "discipline" and shrink your stomach. To get through those moments of temptation, try sucking on dried lemon or orange peel or aromatic breath sweeteners. Moderate calisthenics are advisable so that "you won't be thinking about yourself."

In the belief that "there is a great deal of psychology to reducing," Dr. Peters thought it might be helpful to form a diet club with a public weighing-in ceremony. Anyone failing to lose at least 1 lb. a week (2 to 3 lb. being desirable) would be fined and the proceeds would be donated to charity.

Pro: The basic relationship between calorie intake and weight level is clearly explained by Dr. Peters, and her diet provides a generally sound nutritional program for weight loss.

Con: The diet is deficient in calcium, and adding foods rich in this mineral would bring up its calorie count. A greater variety of foods would eliminate much of the diet's repetitive quality. Fasting, which Peters recommends for weight loss, has been found to be useful only when employed with caution.

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