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Calories & Corsets: A History of Dieting Over 2,000 Years
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Calories & Corsets: A History of Dieting Over 2,000 Years

3.24  ·  Rating details ·  172 ratings  ·  23 reviews
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 pinc ...more
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published 2011 by Profile Books
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3.24  · 
Rating details
 ·  172 ratings  ·  23 reviews

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Nov 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

This book just goes to show the very truth of that statement. Two thousand years and mankind is still obsessed with weight, still obsessed with unattainable images of beauty, still desperate for fad diets and 'guaranteed' weight loss pills, lotions, clothing, equipment - particularly women, held hostage to societies fixated on ideal images of womanhood and yet blamed for their gullibility and desperate
Well, evidently diets haven't changed much over the centuries. Or—the details have, but there's ever an emphasis on quick fixes and the like...and fat-shaming. (Honestly, the book could have been subtitled Fat-Shaming Through the Centuries.)

Because of this repetition of fad after fad, the book itself felt a bit repetitive at times, although I think it was worth that repetition to see the way attitudes have and haven't changed. Sounds like there have always been some sensible voices championing m
Jan 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am interested in the subjects of health and dieting, so this book was very interesting to me. I somewhat expected a lighter read filled with more anegdotes, but this is actually a well-researched record on the historical development of dietary advice. The recount doesn't make it more boring or bland, I actually really enjoyed reading this book. It's funny to see how even diets have trends and come back periodically. Maybe someday we'll learn that all it takes it to eat real food, move regularl ...more
Wendy Jackson
May 08, 2016 rated it liked it
I read this book as part of the thematic choice ("food politics") for my book club. The intention was to examine time-series data on the approach to food, dieting, and body shape, as opposed to reading one of the newer treatises that fall into the general category of food politics (of which I have read a few - "Fast Food Nation", "The Omnivore's Dilemma", "My Year of Meat", etc.). While my sense is that food politics (neuroses?) are getting worse with time, I wanted to test that against the actu ...more
Oct 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Try as I might I just couldn't finish this book, which started so well, galloped along and then just gave up on me. or me on it - I'm not sure which. Perhaps I just found after a while that the author was trying to give me so many fascinating historical facts that I just became saturated with them all. An interesting read and I gave up about 2\3rds through but I don't regret reading it or nor finishing it either!
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. Well-researched. However, it felt like a list of historical events. Lacked depth of argument. Yeah, people have dieted for a long time. I needed more.
Tom Houseman
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Most of the book is a dry and rote history of dieting, some interesting anecdotes peppered in. I definitely learned something from it. The last ten pages, however, seem to fundamentally misunderstand everything that preceded them. Foxcroft still frames the issues of obesity and dieting through fatshaming language and ideology, through the notion that the issue with obesity in America and around the world is one of personal decision-making and individual choices, and that the reason so many peopl ...more
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Obviously quite a lot of research was done for this book, but it was all presented in the driest possible. Sourced material hopped around quite a bit throughout geography and ages; I feel a little more organization and deeper analysis of attitudes and cultural norms would have made the subject matter more digestible.
Feb 08, 2018 rated it liked it
The subtitle of this book captures this book perfectly, it is a history of dieting. We learn about how and why people sought to lose weight (for example, Lord Byron thought it would make him stupid). It is also a look at how men have been judging women since time immemorial.
Chelsea Murray
Feb 25, 2018 rated it liked it
A very interesting (if sometimes dry) account of diets over 2000 years. It reads much more like a very long paper, and focuses on facts, but coming away from the book it's very clear how long the struggle with diets and body image has been going on.
Aug 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and well-researched, with lots of great anecdotes. The organization was a little haphazard (and confusing), and there wasn't much analysis, but as I was reading this purely for research, I didn't mind.
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating history of dieting

Great descriptions of dieting throughout the ages- explaining how the "trends" we see in dieting today are consistent throughout all of history.
David Persinger
Feb 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Ever wonder if the contemporary craze for fad diets is without precedent? Well, it isn't. Louise Foxcroft takes the reader on a tour of starvation diets, grapefruit diets, coffee diets, hair-raising exercise routines, colonics, and slimming devices that Torquemada would adore that is, by turns, entertaining and frightening. Contemporary humanity is hardly unique in its obsession with slimming - as Foxcroft recounts in diet and exercise advice from the ancient Greeks through Dr. Adkins. I highly ...more
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: do-not-own, ebooks
i'm actually somewhat surprised by how much i enjoyed this. i downloaded it on a whim thinking "this is probably going to suck but whatever!" and you know what? it didn't. it's a good, quick breakdown of history & ineffectiveness of yo-yo dieting. i do wish there had been a chapter on surgical weight-loss methods (lapband, lipo, etc.) & the fat acceptance movement (she actually did briefly mention it in the intro) but you can't have it all, i guess
Dec 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting and very well-researched. Covers the history of dieting from the Greeks to present-day, but mostly focuses on the last 200 years. Mostly factual but at the same time amusing and terrifying, for example: "...the 3-Way Diet Program that rather worryingly claimed to 'LITERALLY MELT THE FAT OFF YOUR BODY LIKE A BLOWTORCH WOULD MELT BUTTER' "
Interesting history of dieting and the extremes people go to to cure the "curse" of overweight, the final frontier of supposedly acceptable prejudice. Not much has really changed in the past 200 years or so.
Oct 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a very entertaining (and surprisingly interesting) little history book - the author was a tad carping at times, but the many instances of humor by far made up for it. There were a few little grammar things, but they were pretty much isolated right at the beginning.
Jul 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Some interesting information about the history of dieting. We have not made much progress over the years.
Aug 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Read like a dissertation rather than the fluff piece I was expecting - and that's a good thing. Very well-researched.
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite informative. I definately learned some things about the history of peoples relationships with food. Well written. A good use of my time.
Mar 30, 2013 rated it liked it
This book was interesting, eye-opening and convicting.
Pearlyn Lim
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable and readable though maybe because of the fluid manner in which it is narrated, the information did not come across as clearly.
Apr 02, 2012 rated it liked it
interesting book looking at food , diets over the ages starting with the greeks to the modern day would interest someone into social history
Catherine Dimes
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Jul 13, 2016
rated it it was ok
Jul 29, 2016
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Oct 23, 2012
Photography Raptor
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Apr 15, 2017
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Jan 23, 2015
Meik Romer
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Mar 09, 2017
Mary Hungerford
rated it it was ok
Nov 24, 2015
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Louise Foxcroft read History at the University of Cambridge as a mature student in the early 1990s. In 2007 she published an academic title, The Making of Addiction: The ‘use and abuse’ of opium in nineteenth-century Britain (Ashgate), which developed the research of her PhD thesis. This was followed by her first general book, Hot Flushes, Cold Science: A History of the Modern Menopause (Granta, 2 ...more