If you believed that the Atkins, Keto, Paleo 5:2 or Keto trending topics were the beginning of low-carb eating but you were mistaken. Go back in time 160 years to the 1860s in London and one wacky Victorian man – – for better or worse, was set to kick off an era-long trend of low-carb eating that would continue to be repackaged and marketed as the latest weight loss trend repeatedly to this day.
I had no idea about William Banting until I stumbled upon an older Guardian article that was archived from the beginning of the decade. Banting was born on the 29th of September 1979. Banting had a reputation as an English undertaker who was actually employed by the royal family. However, Banting later became popular for a initiative of his, his diet, in 1862 that became extremely loved by Victorian Londoners.
In his late 60s, Banting wasn’t happy with his weight; standing 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighting fourteen and half stones the man would be deemed overweight according to a 21st century BMI calculator. “If the fat isn’t an uninhibited enemy creeping in on you,” wrote the disgruntled Victorian, “I do not know what it is.”
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Banting chronicled his efforts to lose weight using a variety of commendable, yet unorthodox techniques, such as “rowing on the River Thames,” “bathing in various locations” as well as “riding on horses.” Despite his best efforts, he could not shed any of his excess weight, which he called, “the evil.” In the end, after many unsuccessful attempts Banting discovered a way to solve the problem thanks to an explorer-like physician named William Harvey.
The doctor advised Banting from eating bread or butter, sugar, milk, beer and potatoes. Although Banting was difficult to accept at first and claimed that these food items “had been the most important (and I believed innocent) components of my existence… over a long period of time” He finally accepted the diet.
Banting lost over three stone in under and year, and was so astounded by the results he actually published a pamphlet popularising his new carbohydrate-limiting diet. “On Corpulence: Feeding the body and feeding the mind” was a huge success, selling 50k copies. In the end, in 1866 “London as well as the rest of Europe was awash with Banting-mania.”
I decided to test I decided to give the Banting diet a shot for a week to see if it lives as advertised. I’ll admit that I was a bit sloppy the low carb diet could be an Victorian trend, but vegetarianism certainly wasn’t. I had to resort to substitutes for meat like Quorn to make up for the huge amounts of beef and pork that Banting was eating every day.
My excitement for this enjoyable small experiment quickly waned when I was preparing breakfast on day one. “For the breakfast I have about four to five ounces of meat, mutton, kidneys and bacon, fish that has been broiled or cold meat that is of any kind, excluding pork and a big glass of tea (without sugar or milk) along with a biscuit, or an tablespoon of toast with a little dryness,” were Banting’s instructions.
I was sad at the pathetic meal that was a far cry from my usual breakfast, consisting of large portions of peanut butter, slathered on a thick slice of toast, accompanied by an iced coffee. Instead, a couple of slices of Quorn Ham, a sluggishly milk-free tea along with a digestible biscuit swung across my plate. At midday, I was hungry.
However, when lunchtime came around also known as “dinner,” as Banting said – my luck was set to shift. Banting’s orders for lunch comprised of “five to six pounds” of any fish other than salmon, any meat other than pork and any other vegetable that is not potato 1 teaspoon of dry toast or fruit from pudding, of any kind of game or poultry,” and, by far , the most delicious part is “two or three grams of good claret Maderia, or sherry port, champagne, and beer not permitted.”
Evidently, I went for the highest limit on sherry, after being overwhelmed by my one-biccy-and-ham breakfast. After half an hour, I was swaying about the house, all fuzzy and giggling at funny things. I remembered the lesson I learned in my first year at Uni and then quickly forgotten about; that alcohol does not mix well with carbs that aren’t there.
It didn’t seem to bother Banting however, whose afternoon teaof “two or three pounds of fruits, an emulsifier, or two and a cup tea with no sugar or milk,” hardly helped to prepare the stomach for the night’s theatrics… Then there was a “glass or two glasses of claret” which he recommended along with the “supper” consisting of “three or four pounds of fish or meat like a meal.” I was in the sand by 8pm.
The session didn’t stop there, as Banting also suggested the idea of a “nightcap at the discretion of the client” of “a glass of grog (gin whisky, gin, or brandy, minus sugar) or perhaps a glass of sherry or claret.” The day one of this diet, which was referred to as low-carb has turned into an evening out-for-one in my dining room and I was dancing around drinking endless glasses claret, like a Game of Thrones character, as I texted my distant family to let them know how much I loved my loved ones.
The remainder of my week following the Banting diet was much like this, with a constant haze of port. Needless to say, I didn’t lose any weight on the drink-booze-three-times-a-day diet, nor did I save any money – buying meat or meat alternatives for four meals a day is not to be recommended during a cost of living crisis. If you do not want to be drunk and broke I wouldn’t recommend this particular diet.
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I’m Anna I’m located in north-east London. News Reporter with a special attention to immigration, social equity, as well as social housing concerns. I’ve been working with MyLondon from January 20, 2021. You can check out my MyLondon’s Facebook page here.
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