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Book Review: The Better Homes & Gardens Diet Book 1955

Friday, May 6, 2016

I recently acquired a vintage book about dieting and I was skeptical about it at first, thinking it may be totally outdated but I was pleasantly surprised to find it was really full of some wonderful advice! In fact, it's probably one of the most delightful dieting books I've ever read! But then I'm always drawn to fun vintage things like this, so perhaps it's not everyone's cup of tea. For me, though, it was a delightful read. It's called "Better Homes and Gardens Diet Book" printed in 1955. I got mine from Amazon, but you may be able to find it at a used bookstore or a thrift store. It was pretty inexpensive and after seeing pictures of some of the illustrations, I really wanted to read it!
I don't talk about diets or dieting very often on here, but believe me I've been through my fair share (although perhaps not as many as some)! These days it seems most popular to be gluten free (been there, done that, not for me) or grain free, eating "clean," etc. But I think what most of these diets fail to point out is that although it's good to eat healthily, you still can put on weight if you are eating more than your body needs.
I think many times we wonder why the scale continues to creep upwards when we eat healthy and keep an active lifestyle. I know for me, it was eye opening when I started tracking my food. I'm not overweight by today's standards, but pounds were starting to add on one by one. I keep an active lifestyle these days, rock climbing three times a week, and sometimes hiking on the weekends. But my weight hasn't been affected much at all by this extra activity. I think it's easy to think if you exercise then you can be lazy about how much you eat. Unfortunately it doesn't work quite like that! Here's a good explanation about why exercise should be secondary to diet.
The Better Homes and Garden Diet Book actually covers more than just dieting and how to lose weight. Here are a few of the chapters in the book: "For safe and sure reducing," "Why proteins are important," "Better Homes & Gardens meal plans" (I think this one is the most dated), "When you're away from home plate," "Dieting family style," "What minerals do for you," "Don't overlook calories in alcohol," "All about vitamins" (I always find this topic interesting), "Cut calories, but enjoy variety" and more! The delightful illustrations scattered throughout the book I found particularly amusing!
I really think calorie counting is underrated these days. I know it's kind of "old fashioned" and some people can take it too the extreme. But for many, it works really well. It's basically just like keeping track of your finances. You won't have to guess about how much you need to eat and how to lose a few extra pounds (or a lot of pounds) if you closely track your calorie "income." 
Some of the meal plans in the Better Homes and Garden Diet Book are definitely dated. Some of them aren't too bad, though, to be honest! They have three meal plans from 1,000 calories, 1,250 calories and 1,500 calories. They also divide the plans by season. It was stated in the book that these plans were put together to reflect a normal diet for most people, but of course times have changed and we don't eat quite this way anymore. So if you are planning to put together a meal plan for yourself, it's probably best to not stray too far from your usual diet, making sure you are keeping within your calorie limits of course. However, you may find you can eat more (within your calorie "budget") and are satisfied for longer if you add more vegetables and whole grains into your diet, if you aren't already eating them.


The book also discusses how many calories you need to eat and how many you would need to cut in order to "reduce." They suggest you start by tracking all the food you eat for a day to get an idea of how much you are eating and mark everything in their handy "Daily diet-diary." They also talk about how to diet while eating with others who aren't dieting. They touch on teenagers and safe ways of losing excess weight and when it might not be a good idea to lose weight. They also talk about how to go about gaining for people under weight.

The thing I love about this book is that they advocate a lifestyle change. Not just a short term diet and then right back to how you were eating before. It's about small changes that make up the big picture. If you torture yourself by reducing your calories so low, you may not stick to your plan and just give up. Here's an excerpt from the book that I liked:

How long can you stay on a diet?

You may notice that the Better Homes & Gardens reducing diets are not billed as a Five Day, or Ten Day, or Fourteen Day diets. The reason is that you can, and should stay on them as long as excess fat is present. Not a day longer! When you have attained normal weight, you no longer have any useless surplus fat to make up for calories that reducing diets are deliberately designed not to provide....Another reason why no specific time limit is placed on the diets is that reducers who slim down on short-term diets are prone to feel that the battle of overweight is won, once and for all. It never is, or hardly ever. Fat will come right back again if eating is unrestrained and daily meals pile up a calorie surplus. Permanent weight control depends upon re-educating one's appetite and eating habits. Foods provided in the Better Homes & Gardens meal plans are those common to average American diets. That way the transition to higher calorie diets, after weight is reduced, will be easy and natural. Diets containing exotic "health foods" or strange and unusual things to eat are all too likely to make the reducer feel that there is some wonderful short-term magic in them. There is no such magic, and the road to lifetime weight control lies in intelligent eating of wide variety of common and delicious foods of the familiar kinds provided by the following meals. Incidentally, when you're eating the foods in these meal plans, enjoy every morsel of them. Don't believe for a minute that you ought to feel guilty because you aren't suffering, or because your taste buds are telling you, "This is delicious!" 


The book includes a list in the back with all of the food calories, but these days it's easy to track your calorie intake with phone apps like Lose It! (my fave) or My Fitness Pal. And there are lots of support groups for those who need some inspiration. I talk about this subject of dieting a lot with my mom because it's something she has struggled with most of her adult life. It's one way we bond, because we both love talking about it and I think it's good to have someone to talk to when you are struggling with your weight. Not everyone wants to hear about your eating habits! Excess weight can be a real struggle for many people and for some reason I find health and diet really interesting. I have a few pounds to lose at the moment, not a lot, but a little bit and I prefer counting calories. Although it takes a bit of effort at first (maybe because I make most of the food I eat and recipes never show calories!), but it has gotten so much easier. I like it because I don't have to guess anymore about whether or not I'm eating too much of something. If you are counting everything and you know how much food you need to eat, if you stick with it for long enough, eventually you will see weight come off. For those of us who only have a few pounds to lose, it can take a bit longer to see it come off. But it's about making healthy changes for the long haul! I've been counting calories for about three weeks now and while I haven't seen any drastic changes on the scale, I have definitely been more aware of what kinds of foods I am putting in my mouth. I still have something sweet every day (I have a massive sweet tooth!), but now I also eat LOADS of vegetables. I never used to eat this many! I am also finding new ways to make recipes so they are healthier. I have two great muffin recipes that I'm planning to share on the blog soon. Maybe I'm just getting used to eating better, but I kind of amazed myself that they actually taste rather nice, even after making them lower in calories. They are also much more satisfying. Those recipes are coming soon! I also want to share some other meal recipes people were asking about. Stay tuned if you are interested!

If you are trying to lose weight, the biggest thing that will make the most difference is doing something you can stick with for the long run. There's no use getting a gym membership only to discover you never actually use it. Make a change you know you can stick to, even just a little change like dedicating two nights a week for a walk around your neighborhood. If you aren't interested in counting calories, cutting portions by a little or just being more mindful of what you are eating can help.

Well, it's Friday and it's such a gorgeous day! I'm going to spend the rest of my day sewing up a dress inspired by The Moon Spinners (sewing pictures coming soon) and then maybe a bit of time outdoors while it still smells of apple blossoms! I hope you all have a lovely weekend! xx


2 comments :

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    1. It really is a fun read if you can get your hands on it! :)

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