I lost 10% of my weight in 2010 and have kept it off since by eating "retro."
In my twenties I led a very active lifestyle and was able to maintain a steady, healthy weight. In my thirties that changed. I'd gain and lose, gain and lose.
When I turned forty, I tried a very popular current-day diet. Instead of losing, I gained even more weight. I'd lose a little then gain back more because I'd binge after feeling deprived. I also became addicted to their branded heavily processed sugar and chemical-laden "diet foods." I tried my own variations of cutting back but nothing seemed to work for me long term. It was pretty depressing.
Then I had an idea. It seemed that women were much thinner overall during the 1950s. I realized that I had to go on a diet from current-day diets! I did some research and started eating retro.
My starting weight was 156 pounds and I'm 5' 9". My BMI was 23 which is within the "normal" range. But back in the 1950's, the accepted standard for measuring ideal body weight was based upon the "Medico Actuarial" studies of the health and mortality rates of "hundreds of thousands" of Metropolitan Life Insurance policy holders. Unlike BMI which simply uses height and weight, the 1950s method assigned weight ranges to people based upon gender, height and three possible body frame sizes. That meant that you had less of a window for weight variations.
This and much more appears in my book American Women Didn't Get Fat in the 1950s
I stopped using BMI and started using not only the 1950s "diet" of real foods, fitness and accountability but also metrics for determining a healthy weight. Boy am I glad that I did! Look at the things I lost besides weight:
Double Chin: GONE!
Bad Complexion: GONE!
Four Inches Around My Waist: GONE!
Eating Retro with a 1950s Diet Improved My Health
At my heaviest, my blood pressure reading put me into the category of pre-hypertension. After losing weight my blood pressure went back into the "normal" range! I've never had a problem with high cholesterol, however I made some significant changes with my 50s diet and I wondered how it would affect my "bad" cholesterol. Sure, I was smaller on the outside, lost four inches around my waist, had more energy and mental clarity, but high cholesterol can be a hidden danger when you don't know your numbers.
When I had my cholesterol checked in August 2007 my diet consisted of a high percentage of processed diet foods such as frozen meals, breads and desserts. I also ate very little real cheese because I knew it was high in fat so I took calcium supplements and ate fat free cheese "products." I rarely if ever ate whole eggs and instead bought liquid egg whites in a carton.
I started using fitday in the beginning of 2007 so I'm able to look at detailed data of my food and nutrition. I began my diet from modern day diets by eating the 1950s way in January 2010. While still counting calories I made the following dietary changes by eating:
- Minimally and non-processed foods
- Naturally occurring fiber by eating more fruits and vegetables instead of inulin and polydextrose which are fiber additives in processed diet foods
- Real, whole organic eggs instead of egg whites out of a carton
- 2-3 servings of organic full fat cheese daily and stopped taking a calcium supplement
- No refined carbs and no added sugars the first year to help break my addiction
- Organic oatmeal and raisins instead of prepackaged cereals for breakfast
- More whole grains and potatoes
- Real whipped cream made from scratch as an occasional treat instead of low or non-fat processed chem-whips
- Red meat more often than chicken
- Salads made with vegetables and blue cheese crumbles instead of a few leaves of lettuce, croutons from a package and sugar-laden bottled dressing
- Real butter instead of substitutes
- NO Genetically Modified foods when possible
So how did I score in 2013 compared to 2007? I assumed that my cholesterol would have gone up since I'm now eating whole eggs, hard cheeses and more red meat. But a strange thing happened. My overall cholesterol fell by forty points with the biggest drop being in my "bad" LDL cholesterol! My current LDL is a mere 78! My numbers are all optimum! But wait, there's another surprise. In 2007, 29% of my calories were coming from fat and about 19 grams of that was saturated. In 2013 I was averaging 34% of my calories from fat with 26 grams of it being saturated. Doesn't this go against what we read over and over? Shouldn't my cholesterol have gone UP? This is only my profile and reaction to the 1950s diet, so I of course would never claim that if you do the same you will have the same results.
Here's some more data. My average fiber intake in 2007 was 21 grams. Now it's almost 30! I can see that eating more whole foods, veggies and fruits while cutting out all pre-packaged junk and refined carbs has made a difference.
Beyond the 1950s Diet
In 2016 I began eating like it's like World War One through the Great Depression as I worked on my cook book Thrifty Vintage Gluten-Free Recipes. For the first time in decades I included whole milk into my daily diet via cooking and baking and significantly cut back on my meat and chicken consumption. I also retrofied more of my kitchen cooking utensils with vintage 1920s cast iron cookware. When able I use manual instead of electric food prep techniques. I also learned how to make my own cake so I could eat it, too.
During the spring of 2016 I began to integrate more vegetarian meals inspired by recipes from the late 60s and early 70s with all of the wisdom and diet secrets I've been practicing from earlier decades. I continue to consume far less red meat and chicken than before I began my new retro way of eating.